Andy Taylor: “In Duran we liked to identify anything external that was causing us a problem , like when Capitol refused to release “The Reflex”, but when it came to sort out our personal problems, we just didn’t connect”.
John Taylor: “Suffice to say there had been a lot of water under the bridge and none of us were great swimmers.”
Wow, I just love the new album and let me tell you the new songs went stick in my head almost immediately. I think it’s going to be one of my fave records off their catalogue. If Andy played on it, this album could have been a PERFECT. It will never be on the same levels of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” either of their own “Rio”, or of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper and Lonely Hearts Club”, but it’s one of Duran’s best albums so far, to me!!
It is a well done, awesome revenge conceived against Sony and the whole producers crew they had (to cope) during the Red Carpet Massacre days: the music sounds strictly related to Red Carpet Massacre, which was dance and electro-pop music, as well. And seen the new album sounds to belong to the Red Carpet Massacre family, I wonder why they all couldn’t find a compromise with Sony, to realize such masterpiece in those days. I take this new album also, as a message to Andy, which says like: “Listen to this and just enjoy what we could do together with Sony as well, back then!”.
It doesn’t sound innovating and there isn’t any kind of re-invention: despite all those 80s recalls on the album cover, musically it sounds current, nothing to share with their past, indeed it seems like cheers to that past.
Their daily, eternal, permanent mistake, the one they want to forget about the past and to always be tuned on the future, is reflected also on this record. It’s as if they keep obsessively turning page of a book started in 1978, skipping to read the content of every page. I guess musically for this band trying to get locked into the future is amazing, but that means they never absorb psychologically what it was, more importantly they never learn(ed) any lesson. Returning again on the above figurate book, if you only turn the page, ignoring its content, at the end you haven’t caught anything of your reading! All of their “faux pas” on the guitars, which can be heard by everyone, are working like a boomerang on the making of their records and on taking the other bigger decisions concerning promotion for example, so far (some of which are really embarrassing…!).
It’s certainly an awesome album, but underneath the surface it raises in me doubts and questions whose answers I’d rather to never hear (from the guys, the fans or otherwise.
Some of those doubts leave me in dismay, others get me like bewildered. The doubts are listed and shortly commented below.
Dom writes the guitar parts of few of the songs and gives them to play to others: certainly there is a reward for him, but the fans’ final love goes to the one who actually plays the guitar. He recently posted on his Twitter: “The song Butterfly Girl that I played on and co-wrote with Duran is used in Greys Anatomy today. John Frusciante also plays!”. To me that sounds surreal: man, do you listen to yourself when you speak like that?
There is a “human” drummer playing the drum and there is a “human” bass playing the bass: this doesn’t change the fact the album is pretty electronic oriented, which is quite fun if you have human talented men in the studio and I’m not ranting about their experimentation.
I am realizing this is not the first time they’re able to write and record an awesome record while unsigned. Today record companies aren’t “ruling” as much EMI did in the 80s and no battle was necessary to publish two pop gems like All You need is Now and this one. These days they needn’t have to struggle as much as they did with EMI for The Reflex or the Power Station…
Now the review of the 17 tracks. Just my views on Musicality/instrumentation, Vocals and Lyrics: my “M+V+L” ! By the way of the album lyrics, you may find a “See also” extra, just like you have in dictionaries: “See Also” refers you to a topic with a similar or related meaning.
Ok, now my review song by song: MUSICALITY/INTRUMENTATION/VOCALS/LYRICS (in short, M – V – L)
PAPER GODS: M: I love the groove of the song, as it keeps a little away the controversial topic of the lyric. V: the a cappella choir is a wise thing, the vocal melody is amazing, it sounds like a doggerel and this way it gets better stuck in your head. L: to me, the “Paper Gods” in the album title refers to the guys as men in bedroom posters, the “P.G.” in the album track title is about money. See also Pink Floyd’s Money.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?: M: again another catchy electronic slow dance song, deliberately slow, in my opinion to appreciate better the lyric and the guitars. It’s a true pity John’s final guitars solo are faded, as it happened to Dom’s in Mediterranea. V: vocally it reminds me of Blue’s “Can’t breathe easy”: Simon can reach high notes! L: the man in the song reads one in despair, confused, looking for answers on the world.
LAST NIGHT IN THE CITY: M: it’s a song realized on one of the best Ibiza clubs music patterns! It’s funny to dance it. V: her voice is powerful, whereas Simon recalls his effort in The Wild Boys in a tentative to reach her. L: a couple of friends (lovers?) who want to enjoy their last night in the city before separating: a poignant moment turned into a funny disco moment. See Also Duran Duran’s Last day on Earth
PRESSURE OFF: M: there is no funky at all, although I can hear distinctively Nile’s guitars. It sounds closer to Wild Boys, maybe ’coz the chorus line is all repeated 3 times. I can hear some lovely percussions too. V: Simon and Miss Monaè are the right vocal couple here. L: it’s about letting it go and to try to be positive. Loved John when says the song is like “F*ck off and dance!”. LOL!
DANCEOPHOBIA: M: it’s silly, but it’s got the strongest beat. It’s got one of the best groove here. V: Actress Lindsay Lohan is an awesome sexy doctor and I can imagine the gags on the stage when performed live! L: he’s an unaware victim of dancephobia , but he apparently wants to go on dancing and the clou moment is when Lindsay Lohan “Rock Doc” arrives. See also Gloria Estefan’s Doctor Beat.
YOU KILL ME WITH SILENCE: M: I love the intriguing it to on the keyboard, I love the Warren style guitars. V: Simon here shares the same theatrics I heard on certain tracks off Arcadia.(Missing, El diablo) L: to me that’s a song to Andy and Roger, the two silent DD guys. Today both of them are “quiet”, for different reasons, of course. I have fun replacing the world “girl” with “guys”. Here the girlfriend is often silent, but is it shy or is it a strategy to hide something else? See also Duran Duran’s “Is there something I should know?” and Alan Parsons Project’s “Don’t answer me”.
SUNSET GARAGE: M: It’s a funny dance song, but I can’t hear the Ibiza techno house music overload, like so far. V: Simon sounds in a good shape, but nothing relevant. L: the subject is nothing thought provoking, it jest reads to me like a group of guys who want to enjoy the sun, like during a barbecue…
CHANGE THE SKYLINE: M: another Ibiza-ed disco song, it starts with a cappella choir, but then goes on differently than the title track does. V: I love Simon’s vocals and Bierre fits in well. L: I think it’s about a man who is making resolutions for the future.
BUTTERFLY GIRL: it seems recorded during the Notorious sessions, it’s funky and John Frusciante’s guitar fills my heart and satisfies me. V: like in “Come Undone” there is a duet with a female backing vocalist, now Anna Ross,which I love: L. it’s the follow up of Come Undone: Simon encourages the girl to react and to try stop crying over her, all day, to try stop complaining and ranting. See also: Christina Aguilera’s ”Fighter”.
THE UNIVERSE ALONE: M: it’s the “Arcadia song” in the album, vocally and musically (whereas “You kill me with Silence” was Arcadia-style only vocally). Electro-pop superb effects; an incendiary Frusciante guitar, which provides the “imploding death effect” before the Choir’s performances. Only Arcadia’s The Promise in 1985, with Sting and Dave Gilmour, could offer the same high artistic sound effects. V: Simon’s at his top, considering the kind of lyric he has to perform for the listener. L: it’s about the death moment and the after-death. Wow! I’m a coma survivor, I think I’d need tons of paper to write an essay to illustrate about my own short (luckily!) stay in the after-life! Suffice to say this lyric does touch me and I won’t any longer listen to this song ever in the future. See also Andy Taylor’s “End of the world”.
ONLY IN DREAMS: M: it reminds me the fantastic funk music on Notorious “So Misled”. Funky with an electro-drum. V: it stars only with a vocal choir, then goes on like a normal pop melody. L: I’m not jealous for the abuse of the term “girl”, Simon, you read speaking to too many girls, so far, though… kidding! However I love the repetitive “don’t want to wake up”…
VALENTINE STONES: M: another funky song which sounds taken from the Notorious sessions. There is lovely funky guitar. V: Simon, too, sounds “determined” to say the things he sings like in certain Notorious songs. L: fans are still speculating on what the Valentine Stones are, but they are something precious, whatever they are and “he” doesn’t want to be negotiated with those stones. The topic might refer to my interpretation of “Paper Gods” in the album title, that is their posters, their pictures so obsessively worshipped by the fans. See also The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden”.
NORTHERN LIGHTS: M: I love the walk, the sophisticated Ibiza-ed music. V: Simon is at his best, for a song that seems to not be designed to be a hit. L: I think “Sign your name across the sky” will be a fan favorite within all the refrains of the band.
CINDERELLA RIDE: M: I love the bass. It reminds me the easy listening pop songs of the past, 80s, but also some funky-pop tunes of the 70s. V: I love Simon’s low voice in the spoken parts. L: a song for the kids, as Cinderella is one of their fave characters, but in a sexy key: in the end the author seems to make irony on the character. Funny and amazing!
PLANET ROARING: M: I noticed in all songs an electro intro. This one sounds less electro and more pop; Steve Jones of Sex Pistols offers us few angry guitar riffs. I love the drums, beating like in a march. V: Simon is fantastic and with the backing vocalists the song takes the mood of a collective singing, as if like in a strike. L: it reads like something for politicians, about the status of our planet right now. See also Bob Geldof ‘s “This is the world calling”.
ON EVIL BEACH: the closing amazing tune of this new album is an electro pop song, to me very experimental, featuring odd keyboards and percussive effects, tropical sounds… V: Simon here sounds like describing, not singing, which is a rare thing from him. L: it’s a beach tale, but terrible… it reads a shark attack, with blood, just an evil beach .
My final rating is: 5/5, 5 stars on 5, because despite my dismay, Paper Gods is a very well curated, awesome album. Congrats! This past 15th October marked 20 years I woke up from my coma with their music and I still think musically I did some of my best choices.
DD TV xx