Category Archives: Paper Gods

I Am a Signal Somewhere in Your Bliss

I have a confession to make. It’s likely to get me into trouble in some circles (when am I not in trouble with someone out there??), but I’m going to share anyway.

I haven’t listened to Paper Gods since the beginning of November.

In my defense, I have a seven-year old. I know that doesn’t sound like much of an opening line – but wait!  When the album first came out, I listened to it day and night. Any time I was in the car it would be on, and when I was at home and could put in ear buds without fearing that the house would go up in smoke without my noticing, I’d be listening. I wrote blog after blog about the album. I wrote, changed my mind, and wrote again. And then my youngest started listening. She plays Minecraft in her spare time, and when she’s playing she listens to music. Admittedly I didn’t know this for a while (which is another blog for another day), but she found the album on YouTube and started playing it while she’d “craft”.  You can’t obviously see my dining room table right now, but I’m on one side of it and she sits at the very end of it, close enough so that I’m able to see what’s going on should I feel the need to intervene, or just remind her that “real life” is still going on around her. One day I was writing or working on something and all of a sudden I recognize that she’s humming and partially singing…and it is a song I know.  I stop and listen – she’s singing Last Night in the City (as apparently one does while they’re playing Minecraft).  My eyes got wider and wider as I listened. Not only does she know the words, she knows Kiesza’s part and isn’t afraid to belt it.

I should probably mention that my little one takes singing lessons, too. She’s in something similar to Glee (Yeah, I do question my own judgment sometimes…) so I get the joy of hearing them sing songs like “What Does the Fox Say” in their “Glee” sort of way each week. Nope, not kidding. (Again, the whole judgment thing…) So, as I take her to and from school twice a week and then when we go to singing, she has taken to requesting music be played as though I’m not only her chauffeur, but also her personal DJ.

So where was I? Oh yes, Paper Gods. It quickly grew from requesting one song to asking for many songs off the album – and not necessarily in the order presented. All day, every day, she would ask for “Last Night in the City” and “Pressure Off” to be played. Sometimes she’d request “What are the Chances”, and other times it would be “You Kill Me with Silence”. She’d groan at “Danceophobia” (Yes! She IS my child), and after about the 1,000,000th time I had to play “Pressure Off” for her, I decided I was finished. I needed a break. I needed to hear other music, for crying out loud – no offense to Duran Duran, but I was sick of it (and it takes a lot of nerve for me to admit that, but really – I needed a change of pace!) So, I told her no. (A collective gasp heard ’round the world falls over the crowd…) There would be no more mom playing DJ in the car. We were going to listen to other things. Period. She protested. I stood firm. She is obviously the better fan (but I have better tickets to the shows, so there!).  Only joking, people…and remember, she’s seven.

This continued for about a month. Until Monday night when she caught me at a low point. It had been a rough weekend, I was tired, and I just wanted to get home. She came bouncing out of Glee class as I dragged my mostly dead body to the car. She jumped in, buckled up (she never does anything quickly so this was unusual), I fell into my seat, threw my bag beside me, buckled the safety belt and started the car, sighing deeply as I considered what I was going to rush home to make for dinner. Just as I’d settled on the fact that I didn’t care, a small, ever-so-kind voice from the back of the car requested “Pressure Off”.

Part of me wanted to resist. But I was too tired. I gave in and put it on. After not hearing it for over a month, I’d forgotten how good it was. I still love the hook to pieces and I have it on good authority from my small passenger that Janelle Monáe is still “awesome”. (We live in California. Deal with it.)

Yesterday morning, we got into the car to head to school. We leave at traffic time, so we can count on the drive taking about an hour.  Gosh I love Southern California. My youngest knows the drive can be long, and quickly suggested every so casually that we listen to Paper Gods the entire way to school. “We can even listen to it YOUR way, Mommy.” (That means I start the CD – yes CD because my car is old and I hate screwing around with my phone and the audio jack and CDs sound better anyway – and we listen from start to finish. No repeats, no skipping around.)  Again, part of me resisted. I wanted to wait until after the first of the year and listen to it alone and see how I felt, but I gave in. (This kid has my number in the worst way. Tune in when she’s hit her teens and we’ll all see how this goes…)

A couple of observations:

  1. My little one has grown up with Duran Duran being constant in her life, even more so than my older two because I didn’t start blogging until just after the youngest was born.  She thinks she knows them even though her MOM doesn’t even know them. This is funny to me.

  2. My girl can sing, and it is nothing for her to hit and hold the high notes that Janelle and Kiesza hit.  Ah…youth.  🙂  She dearly loves Paper Gods though, and I appreciate that. You know that youth market DD was after?  Well…they overshot and got the seven year-old market hooked!  (I am joking. Mostly.)

  3. It had been quite a while since I’d heard the whole album and I was curious about how I’d feel after being away from it. Did I really love Paper Gods in the same way that I love Rio or the first album??  Paper Gods still presents a formidable challenge in that it really forces the listener to fully open up and push old perceptions of Duran Duran aside. It’s not like anything else they’ve done, collectively speaking, yet it’s still them. Does that make it well-loved, or does it make it an album that I will continue to appreciate and grow with over time, but maybe not one that I grab immediately when I think of Duran Duran?

I put the album aside again for a while, figuring that after the holidays, I’m going to sit down and give it a dedicated listen,  hopefully without my little back-up singer so that I can concentrate. (I don’t dare say that to her!) I’m curious to see how I feel about it after more time away, and I’m wondering if others have done similar – either with this album or others.  Chime in if you care to share!

-R

2015 Grammy Awards: Ink Spot on A Plastic Spoon

As nice as it would have been to see, Paper Gods was not included in the list of 2015 Grammy awards nominees released this morning.

For many within the fan community, this does not come as a shock, nor does it threaten to take the wind out of the sails. It is par for the course this band was set on since their first album was released. Is it frustrating? Possibly to some. Is it disappointing? I suppose it could be if we let it. For the band? Chances are – they’ve not given it more than a thought or two (if any).  This isn’t a band that has hung their hats, so to speak, on awards, nominations or even lifetime achievements – although they have certainly had some of each. This isn’t a band that has openly given credence to critics, and I can certainly appreciate that.

As a fan, I’ll admit it would have been nice to see them nominated.  Yes, this is purely MY opinion. I certainly said as much in a previous blog I’d written on this very subject. Duran Duran’s absence on the list of Grammy nominees is noticeable, but not terribly surprising. When I look at the field – names like Mark Ronson (Not that I can complain much about that one), Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran fly off the page. As John himself mentioned in a recent Katy Kafe – the band has a difficult time competing on that level, with kids who are easily 25 years their junior (in some cases). I don’t know that any band truly worthy of Duran’s salt could really be in that same category (Pop) and expect to be successful in the sense of being nominated and winning awards or even being played on top 40, “pop” radio stations.

What does that really mean for Duran Duran? Do they just hang it up and quit, realizing that they’re being expected to compete in a category that is likely impossible for a band in their mid-50s? Absolutely not. I don’t know who decides how an album (or a band) should be categorized in sales for places such as iTunes – that’s probably a great question for Katy Krassner, but obviously at least John Taylor feels like Paper Gods wasn’t given it’s just due in that regard, and perhaps he’s right.  I really don’t know and don’t profess otherwise. Even so, and even if it was only for a short time – Paper Gods hit the top 10. This is their 14th studio album and instead of just phoning it in or releasing one “greatest hits” album after another, they decided to take it up a notch. Duran Duran has succeeded in not only challenging their fan base to expand the proverbial music “box” where the band resides in their hearts, they’ve also dared critics to accept that they’re not just aging pinups – that they have serious musical chops and deserve much overdo respect. Paper Gods is already a huge win.

Seeing Duran Duran passed up time and time again for a Grammy can be frustrating to some fans, and I can understand that.  In some ways it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, I laugh at award shows like the Grammy’s, the MTV awards, and the American Music Awards. The artists and bands who are typically celebrated on those shows aren’t even on my radar much of the time – how could I possibly even want Duran included among those masses?? On the other hand, I’m a fan. I like seeing the band I love getting their moment(s) in the sun. Sure. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that I’d hoped for the best. I’m not ashamed of my positivity, because if we don’t have that – what do we really have? What’s the point of being a fan if we can’t extol the band’s triumphs?

I know many are reading and shaking their heads, thinking to themselves my opinion doesn’t matter, the blog is pointless, or that the Grammy’s are a joke and I’ve wasted my time. Some are likely thinking, told you so. Again I ask – why even bother being a fan if we can’t celebrate success? I love Duran Duran. I’m proud of them, whether there are zero nominations or fifty. I am never going to apologize for my pride, even if I’m the only fan left standing.

-R

Isn’t It Time for a Grammy?!?

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I could pretty much just leave the blog right like this today and be dead on with the message…and the first (and largest) quote from Rolling Stone says it all.

If there were ever an album that truly DESERVED a Grammy this year, it’s Paper Gods. I write that with reasoning in two-fold.

For one, this is NOT a debut, upstart band. This is a band that has been working for the past thirty-seven years, and this album isn’t a throwback to everything else they’ve ever done. Not by a long shot.  Duran Duran has done what very few other bands have ever been able to do, and that is breathing new life into their career as they finish out their fourth decade in music. That alone should earn them a Grammy nod.

On the other hand, the “fandom” hand that I hold near to my heart that is full of emotion – isn’t it time this band receives some acknowledgment for their music?!? Yeah, they’ve gotten themselves a few “Lifetime achievement” awards for style or videos, and hey those are fantastic. WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC?!? I know what Duran Duran would say here. They would graciously say that they don’t need that kind of validation, and every single time they see one of us – the fans – scream for them, or comment on how much this band has meant to us over the years, it validates them. Good. I’m glad that the band feels that way, and before I say what needs to be said on behalf of the fans out there – I want them to know that I appreciate that they TELL us how much we mean to them. The little things matter. And we fans do love them. Fans do not stick around for decades supporting a band they don’t like much, and they sure as hell don’t write blogs, plan conventions, and/or travel specifically to see them, either.

The fans say it’s OUR turn. WE want that validation for them. I know I’m not alone when I say that I want to see Duran Duran up on that damn stage, earning their Grammy for the talent, expertise, innovation and devotion they’ve given their music over the years. Paper Gods proves all of that.

I hope the band “hears” me when I type this: the awards matter to US – the fans – because it’s gone on too long now. I speak for all fans when I say that we’re sick and tired of this band being kicked under the table purely because they happened to be the band that young girls fell in love with once. Being female does not equate to not knowing anything about music, and just because at one point I (or any female fan for that matter) happened to be a teenage girl, shouldn’t mean that Duran Duran will forever pay the price. Sometimes I want to ask these people – whomever is really voting for this shit or comments in the negative about DD’s fan base – why it is that they think Duran fans are so intense, or so “rabid?”

I can answer that: it’s because we’ve spent the better part of our lives defending them. We’re supremely loyal because we’ve had to be – and it’s not just about defending their good graces – it’s been about defending our own.

I cannot tell any of you how many times I had kids laugh back in school when I’d triumphantly name Duran Duran as my favorite band. I’m sure most of you have similar tales to tell. I think to a certain degree it hardened me, because I’d glare in reply with a steely gaze, and then flatten them with some basic facts about the band and what they’d accomplished. Sadly, not much has changed over the years. To this day I have neighbors who look at me comically when they ask what I do – and yeah, it can sometimes be tough to choke down the whole “You write a fan blog??” comments. I hate it, actually. So yes, I want to see this band win. You can bet, should that day come – I will feel as victorious as I might if I was bringing home the award myself.  I have no doubt that every other fan out there feels similar.

Duran Duran deserves their moment. I know damn right well that they’re better than M.A.N.Y. of the other bands and performers out there that pick up Grammy’s every single year like it’s no big deal. They thank their managers and producers, most of the time forgetting about the fans that bought their album to begin with, and try to manage not looking like complete assholes (some of the time) as they grab their umpteenth trophy and walk off stage. Once again: IT. IS. TIME.

It’s time to recognize that Duran Duran has outlived much of the unfounded criticism that has relentlessly followed them throughout their career, much in part due to people like me. Fan Girls. Don’t get me wrong, I roll my eyes in complete disgust at that comment, particularly because it’s made by people who know precious little about music, much of the time. Huge, sweeping generalizations were made by critics out there because you know – if young girls happened to like the band, obviously that must have meant they weren’t very good.

Funny thing – those fan girls every music journalist and critic out there has laughed at? We’re still here, and many of those critics are LONG gone.  (A special thank you to Simon for mentioning that during a recent interview with Lyndsey Parker for Yahoo Music!)

Vote early, vote often!!  Paper Gods deserves your consideration.  (and  if you’re a fan who hasn’t bought the album yet – GO GET IT!)

-R

The Present Will Never Last

I feel like the whole world is abuzz with Duran Duran.  Now, I know that this statement of mine is a bit of an overstatement.  Yet, that is how I feel right now.  It seems to me that every other second there is a new post about Duran released by music person/site, a new performance on some show or an exciting piece of news being sent out across the social media world.  Duranland is full of activity!  I am running to keep up, that’s for sure!!  Do not get me wrong.  This is NOT a complaint in any way, shape or form.  I much, much, much prefer this than what it was like a year ago or so.  In fact, I struggle to even remember what life was like then.

Looking back on the blog from a year ago, do you know what was posted?  Three posts were posted on October 24, 2014.  One, of course, was the question of the day focused on Andy Taylor pictures.  The next one focused on the day in Duran history about a John Taylor book signing.  The last one started out like this:  “The Duranie part of me has felt pretty weak lately.  I haven’t been feeling very Duranie like.”  I wrote those lines.  Just reading them makes me feel very, very sad.  That wasn’t an easy time.  The album, then unknown, seemed very, very far away and All You Need Is Now really did, too.  There were no shows on the horizon and no shows in recent memory to look back on.  We were trying desperately to hang on until the quiet ended, until action began in Duranland.

We survived Duran downtime.  We made it through Durantime.  In October of 2014, we couldn’t even imagine what Paper Gods would sound like.  We had no idea that Duran Duran would play at the Hollywood Bowl or would be winning awards like the one they will be receiving tomorrow, the Video Visionary Award, at the MTV EMAs.  Of course, none of this success would have been surprising to us.  We knew that Duran could play special shows and could/should win awards like tomorrow’s.  Yet, I bet none of us really imagined these events.  We couldn’t know.  Here is what we do know.  The present will never last.  (I heard that line somewhere before…Hmmm..)  As much as I want this level of activity in Duranland everyday for the rest of my life, I know that it won’t be like this forever.  It can’t be.  Therefore, I have two choices in how I respond.  I could be super sad about this and worried about the future or I can embrace each and every second!

Obviously, I’m going for the second choice.  So, how am I embracing every single second?  First, I’m trying to check in as much as humanly possible, which isn’t always easy for me with that frustrating teacher schedule of mine, but I am trying!  This might mean, of course, that I’m taking a few minutes out of my day to watch the latest TV appearance.  Speaking of, did you see the performance and interview from X-Factor Italy?

Or what about the performance at Jools Holland in the UK?

Both are well-worth the watch AND sharing!  Yes, please, share away.  Remind people to buy and share, in fact.  This reminds me of the old phrase about voting in Chicago, which is, “Vote early.  Vote often.”  To adapt that quote to now, “Buy early.  Buy often.”  Another thing to say could be, “Share early.  Share often.”  That is another good way, I think, to embrace this time and ensure that every one around you is, too!!!  Of course, having lots of lots of discussion everywhere and anywhere about Duran is important, too.  Heck, I know that my students and my colleagues are probably getting sick of me mentioning Duran and the new album.  (Do you think it would be wrong to include a Duran Duran question on the next quiz for extra credit?!)  I figure, though, that if they aren’t sick of it, then I’m not mentioning it enough!

Beyond all of those ways to live in the moment and embrace the present,  I think, most importantly, it is good just to focus on the now.  I don’t want to spend a lot of time looking back.  It wasn’t that those times weren’t amazing as many other album cycles really were.  I know, for instance, that Rhonda and I wish we were headed back to the UK after seeing a few shows over there for the All You Need Is Now tour.  Yet, as much as I loved that time and always, always will, I don’t want to focus my energy there.  No, I want to listen to the new album over and over again.  I want to watch current clips of TV appearances.  I want to squee with excitement over news like winning awards or new videos.  I don’t want to be concerned with how long this will last or what the next album will be like or will there be a next.  I just want to be right here, right now enjoying Duran Duran.

-A

 

 

Paper Gods, Caveman Edition

Editorial note: C.K. didn’t title this blog and submitted it, probably assuming I’d come up with some catchy title for it. Well, he made the mistake of characterizing his own descriptions of Duran Duran’s music as being “caveman level”. So did what must be done and ran with it. You’re welcome, C.K!!!  – R

 

I had a two-hour drive recently to visit friends in Boston, and it was the perfect opportunity to play Paper Gods! On drive up, I played it in its official running order, because it’s been a while since I’ve heard it that way. Then, I began to skip around, looking for specific songs. It’s about that time in Paper Gods’ five week existence that we start looking for certain songs, right? What I found interesting, though, is that most of the songs I’m gravitating toward now were not ones I liked much a few weeks ago. Specifically:

  1. Face for Today: Some songs grab you strictly with the music, while others may hook you with the lyrics. This one really merges the two for me. I love the idea of Duran giving advice to this generation of pop stars. And yet it also feels like it can apply to our lives too. The “hold on to your time” message is a nice continuation of the similarly themed “All You Need is Now”.   It’s also reminiscent of R.E.M.’s “All the Best,” from what would be their final album, 2011’s Collapse into Now. In each case, the band is clearly speaking from a place of accomplishment and looking back, fondly, to those who are following in their steps.   I loved this song upon first listen, and continue to love it today.
  1. Change the Skyline: Admittedly, I didn’t like this song at first, but it has grown on me. Lyrically, it talks about “moving on” and while that doesn’t necessarily resonate (I don’t want the band to “move on” and I certainly am focused on the “now” in my own life!), I do relate to the notion that you can change the skyline: with your actions, words, accomplishments, with your life…so for me, when I do get to the point where I am passing the torch to someone, I want to feel this way—that I have made a difference. Musically, I really love the percussion, even though it has that club sound (disclaimer: As you all know from my past guest blogs, I am not a musician, so my descriptions of Duran’s music are going to be at the caveman level. No “syncopated bass” references from me!). I also like the rhythm guitar and the keyboard line. And Jonas Bjerre is great, in my opinion. I am sure this puts me in the minority of the fans out there, as this song seems to take a beating on some message boards, and that is fine…I’m used to it (says the guy with the Medazzaland poster in the background).
  1. Sunset Garage: If you asked me in mid-September what my least favorite song was on Paper Gods, I would have easily pointed to “Sunset Garage.” It sounded too different for me, too 60’s/70’s faux Beach Boys-ish.   It also seemed like the descendant of “Taste the Summer” and “Meet El Presidente,” two songs from the catalogue that don’t rank as my favorites. And yet…it grew on me. It’s so damn upbeat and catchy. You can just picture yourself driving on a coastal highway into the sunset with the top down. “Whatever happens, we’re okay…hey we’re still alive!” is one of my favorite lines on this album.   This song has the trademark Duran optimism that drew us to this band in the first place.
  1. Only in Dreams: This one was a fan favorite from day one. It took a little time for me to get into it, but I certainly love it now. I love the orchestral beginning that gives way to the funk about a minute in (very similar to “The Universe Alone”).   Again, lyrically, it’s about celebrating the now (“don’t want to wake up”), but is a little more playful than some of the other similarly themed songs. The Nile Rodgers influence is all over this one. And, yes, the (wait for it…) syncopated bass is also a cool effect. (Well done, my friend. – R) 
  1. Valentine Stones: My favorite of the bonus tracks. When the band talks about this album being heavily influenced by both Notorious and the first album, I think of this song. It’s got the funky rhythm guitar and a haunting, early era Duran chorus that sounds straight out of 1981. Lyrically, the song seems to be about someone getting over a relationship and being leery of a suitor’s promises (as if the protagonist in “You Kill Me With Silence” finally was able to “let go” and move on, but was leery of the “rebound” relationship that awaited him…or her. Yes, I really overanalyze these lyrics!).   I think all of the bonus tracks are amazing, but this one really stands out to me.

You realize that I could have written 13 more paragraphs, right? I love every song on this album. Even Danceophobia. But these are the ones I found myself gravitating toward on my recent trip. I think it speaks to the depth of this new music that these songs were not among my favorites a month ago. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Whatever happens, we’re okay, though…hey we’re still alive! With new Duran Duran music!

-C.K.

Something Is Happening to Me!

I have been back from tour for almost 2 weeks.  Since then, I have noticed something strange with myself, something different than before I left.  This something new isn’t bad and really hasn’t caused me much grief or pain.  Yet…I fear…that it might.  What is it?  I have this uncontrollable urge to listen to the album, Paper Gods, over and over and over.  It is bad.  I’m not going to lie.  I have attempted to switch to something else–anything else…a different Duran album, shuffle, Brandon Flowers, John Taylor solo and still I find myself with that itch.  You all know that itch.  It is when you find your fingers hover over the iPod or phone or stereo or whatever musical device you might have anytime it plays something NOT off Paper Gods.  At that moment, it takes all self-control not to change the song.  It is like having obsessive-compulsive disorder but a super duper specific one.  So, what is the deal?!  How did this started?  How do I stop it?  HELP!

I figure that the first step is admitting that I have a problem.  I do.  I cannot stop listening to Paper Gods.  I think my cat is sick of it.  He gives a weird meow whenever it plays.  Heck, I think the drivers on my morning commute must recognize it by now simply from how loud I have been playing it.  (It is a good waker-upper!)  Even when I am not listening to the music, I start singing songs in my head, thinking about lyrics.  It is not good.  I am definitely distracted by this and somehow, I doubt my boss would be very excited by this.

The next step, I think, would be to figure out the cause, the origin of the problem.  Since I didn’t have it before the tour, I have to think that it happened WHILE on tour.  Now, I don’t really remember any weird conversations with Rhonda or Heather or Shelly or any of the other numerous friends who I talked with that could have led to this condition.  Yet, I did have a sense that something was happening (and maybe it’s happening to you, you, you!) in Berkeley, California. I noticed it then, but I assumed it was all of the driving, the lack of sleep, the minimal meals we had been consuming.  Maybe, it was the vodka.  No matter the cause, I brushed it off and said that whatever was happening to me was due to an extreme situation, as being on tour is pretty intense.

Now that I think about it, I do remember getting a sense that something was happening to me right away, as soon as the first song on the setlist in Berkeley began.  What was that song?  Paper Gods.  Hmm…what did I notice?  I remember the instant that John’s bass kicked in.  Huh. I hadn’t noticed that on the CD, at least not to that extent.  As the song continued, it was like changing something from black and white to color or from standard TV to HD.  Things got sharper, more noticeable.  See what I mean:

Then, later on, I noticed something else when they played the song, What Are the Chances.  This was a song that I had liked before the tour…but after seeing it performed live.  I love it.  It is one of those of songs that has been played over and over again since I returned.  I remember watching Dom and John on stage.  Dom played his heart out while John sang along to every word with a beautiful back drop behind them.  Magical.

If that wasn’t enough to tell me something was amiss, I found myself saying the following statement after the show at the Agua Caliente casino, “I hate to say it, but I’m starting to like Danceophobia.”  I hoped that people would assume that it was the vodka talking but I don’t think it was!  That isn’t right?!?  What I really think made me say this was that ridiculously dorky but oh-so-entertaining dance that John Taylor does during that song!  Seriously!  I think I could watch that for hours!  Unfortunately, despite my constant searching on YouTube, I haven’t found a clip that really shows it!  This is the best I found!  🙁  Anyone got a better clip that you can share with me?!?  I’ll be your best friend (Not really, Rhonda!  Don’t worry.  I’m just saying that!)

I think the problem is really quite simple when I break it down.  You see…I liked Paper Gods before tour.  Yet, seeing so many tracks played live really got the album under my skin.  Now, the question becomes:  What do I do about it?  I would like to say that I should plan more shows.  I am ready.  I know that I haven’t completely put away everything from this tour but I can do that when I die, right?  I would much rather be planning the next!  If not, I fear that winter really will march on this year.  sigh

-A

 

John Taylor Insights: Bass Player Mag

I read a lot of Duran Duran interviews, reviews, articles, and whatnot.  Most of them feel and seem like the same old information repeated over and over again.  There is always the inevitable section on the band’s long history, a paragraph or two or three about which famous person did what on the album, and that’s about it.  Every once in awhile, you see a quote from one of the band members that resonates with you or catches your attention.  I continue to read articles solely for THAT.  I read for the one or two sentences that are interesting, meaningful or different.  After all, who wants to read what you already know about.  I mean…I’m all for repetition as a learning tool, but for band information and promotion, not so much.  That said, every once in awhile, you run across a magazine article that pulls you in, offers real insight and leaves you wanting more.  For me, that is the interview with John Taylor in Bass Player magazine. I was very tempted not to even look at the magazine simply because I’m not a bass player.  Will I understand it?  Do I know enough?  Will I learn anything beyond John’s instrumentation?  I decided to get it because…I knew that I had a long plane ride coming up and would need something to look at!  Plus, John Taylor was on the cover!  I was super glad that I had purchased it, too, as soon as I read it!!  (If you haven’t purchased it yourself, do so, while you can!  I’m obviously just talking highlights here.)

The article starts off common enough with a very brief history and mention of the new album along with all of the collaborations on it.  Yet, by the end of the first paragraph, you know that the article is going to dive deep and ask the questions that many, many fans want, and maybe need, to know.  The article acknowledges that the “signature JT bass” can be found in tracks like “Pressure Off”, “Only in Dreams” and “Paper Gods”.  There is also an acknowledgement that John is also behind a synth part of the time.  This, of course, is what worries fans.  Where’s the bass? is a common question amongst Duranies these days.  They don’t seem to hear the same bass in the album, Paper Gods, compared to the previous album, All You Need Is Now.  These fans don’t want John on synth.  They want him on bass.  Why make it so electronic, fans want to know?  Perhaps, there is a little fear in there that if John’s bass playing isn’t needed, that maybe HE isn’t needed anymore either.  Thankfully, this article addressed this issue immediately and spends literally the first five questions on some element related to electronic bass or synth.

John’s answers to these five questions brought a real insight to what he was thinking both in making the album and the results.  As someone who does tend to appreciate the traditional JT bass sound, I completely appreciated how open he was with his responses.  For example, when asked about keyboard bass, he stated, “My mentality is to keep my ‘enemies’ close.”  He goes on to say, though, “…we all might have to go from being bass players to bass experts” by using the keyboard bass.  Therefore, John is admitting that the times are changing when it comes to bass in popular songs.  His choice is either to get left behind or adapt.  I can definitely appreciate that.  He goes on further to talk about how his choices regarding bass really depended on the songs themselves.  He gave two examples.  In “Last Night in the City,” he gave up his bass guitar parts but in “Paper Gods” he took his bass line lower.  John made it very clear, though, that he wasn’t going to allow his signature bass to be gone entirely.  Two things struck me as I read these answers.  First, it was clear that he had thought a lot about where he fits, how he should sound on the album, etc.  Second, I respect that he really thought about the SONG and what was needed for each individual track rather than letting ego or close-mindedness get in the way.  He found the balance between his signature sound and what the song needed.

From there, the interview turns to process, including how he chooses the best sound for each song, favorite lines on the album, transferring to the live show, etc.  Again, I continue to be fascinated! The interview isn’t about Lindsay Lohan or other collaborations.  It isn’t about the band splitting into two groups in 1985.  No, this is a real interview about subjects that aren’t covered and matters to a lot of fans.  Out of those questions, the answer that peaked my interest the most was about the favorite lines from the album.  Can you guess?  Any clue?  “Pressure Off” was one of the two mentioned.  For that song, he talked about working with Nile in the studio and how Nile got him working really hard.  He also mentioned “Paper Gods.”  Why?  According to John, “It’s a good mix of electronic and electric bass.”  Hmm…

The interview finishes with a discussion about his style and training.  Here’s the one situation in which I don’t mind the history lesson (ironic since I’m a history teacher, right?  I think so!)  He talks about how busy the bass was in the beginning of their careers because he wanted so desperately to get noticed but then the rest of the guys would do the same thing creating very “busy” songs.  When asked about changing his style, John admits that he tried to back away, almost to where he was “almost invisible.”  Could this be one of the reasons that I’m not a big fan of Come Undone?!  I wonder…What is more interesting to me is a follow-up line to that one, “I need to be able to do what I was doing in 1981, but I also need to be open to other things.  The tendency is that when you get older, you get a little lazy and look for shortcuts, so I make sure I keep exploring.”  I think these sentences capture it well.  This is what John was doing on the new album.  He was exploring.  He was willing to mix traditional with contemporary.  He kept his signature sound but allowed the songs to just be what they were going to be.  He didn’t force them to fit into some formula.

This interview was an eye-opening one for me.  I knew that I liked the album before.  I did and have said so many times and in many places, but I also felt a little guilty for doing so.  Why?  The answer is simple.  I’m a John Taylor fan.  I have been since I was 8 years old.  I could hear that his bass was different on many tracks and even pretty much nonexistent on others.  How could I, a big John Taylor fan, be OKAY with that?!  Wouldn’t that be like betraying him or saying that I don’t think he is all that important?!  Yet, I was sort of betraying him by not trusting him.  I should have known.  I should have figured that he would have thought about all these issues already and carefully considered what he should do and why.  Based on this interview, I can feel 100% confident that John Taylor knows that he is right with how he approached his role and his playing on this album.  If John can love it and love what he has done on the album, then, so can I!!!

-A

Paper Gods: Can’t Stop Believing

Today is October 6, and that means it’s 4  5 (I am so sorry that I cannot seem to add simple numbers after 11pm at night, which is when I wrote this.) days shy of the first month that Paper Gods has been available.

What a month it has been. Truly.

As everyone has likely already read on this very blog, Paper Gods was not an immediate “love at first listen” for me. I really needed to allow the music to sit and percolate. I needed to pick out elements that I really enjoyed, and give myself permission to take the time necessary for Paper Gods to take ME on a journey.

Let me be clear: I am not a patient person. It is my biggest fault, by far. I expect things to happen instantly. I’m not one to want to wait for much of anything, and unfortunately sometimes – Duran Duran ends up bearing the brunt of that impatience. I shared my experiences with the album as they happened at the time, but I never really came back and explained that after giving the album some much-needed listening, I dearly love Paper Gods.

It seems strange to type that now, nearly a month into an album’s release, but it’s true. It is really difficult to put my journey into words that make sense here, but I’ll try. Like most anything the band has ever done, Paper Gods isn’t a one-listen, throw away album.  It has depth that goes far beyond the words or music, and I should have realized that was going to happen based on the cover art alone.

In a lot of ways, I’m kind of glad I didn’t fall into immediate love with the album. I really like that Paper Gods challenged my ears, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. It isn’t enough to just sit down and pop the CD into a player or hit your iTunes icon. In order to get something out of it, you’ve got to really listen in the same way that I think in order to understand the full breadth of the band’s career – you’ve got to really be willing to look beyond the pinups and videos. I appreciate that the band, and particularly this album, have forced me to think. I’ve needed to pull the band out of the box and off of the pedestal I previously had them, which overall has been a good thing.  Let me give you just a few examples:

Danceophobia was by far the one song off this album that I just could not digest. Yes, the Lindsay Lohan thing really bugged me. It still does to a large extent. That said, it is so much fun live!!! The first night I saw, I couldn’t even move. I just stood there, watching the band. I won’t lie – I wanted to see them SELL IT.  If they really wanted me to like it, then they had better fucking bring it BIG time. I didn’t want a repeat of other songs off of other albums that I won’t even mention here. I wanted to see the band love the song at least as much as they expected us to do. Well, John Taylor danced like a crazy man, and Dom “co-writer of Danceophobia” Brown (shout out to my dear friend CK for constantly reminding me of that fact over the past several weeks) couldn’t seem to stand still either.  I marveled at the scene as my foot started to tap on its own. (dammit!) Then there’s Jessie, the new backup singer, who has more energy than an entire AUDIENCE of Duranies. I’ll say this much: she’s a much better doctor than Lindsay. Big controversial name on the album or not, the song has become one of the most fun in  Duran Duran’s live show, and dammit (again) – I danced. I DANCED. It’s just a silly dance song, and that’s OK.  Not every song they do has to be deep and insightful. Some songs can just be shallow, fun, and tongue-in-cheek. Yes, the band sold it. More importantly, they sold it to ME.  I can’t fight that. (Don’t even bother emailing me your “I told you so’s” CK….)

In some of the early reviews Amanda and I did, I wondered out loud about the album feeling so electronic. It’s something that I’ve heard a lot out of the mouths of a lot of fans, including my own from time to time. Is that really all that fair, though?  I’m not quite so sure. The album still has guitar, PLENTY of bass and a ton of drums. Just because they aren’t necessarily served up in the same way as All You Need is Now doesn’t mean they aren’t there…and this just goes back to taking the band out of the box we’ve been keeping them in. It’s not fair to them, and it is definitely not fair to our own ears or heart. For weeks I sat by my stereo, thinking to myself that I really liked what I heard, but then I’d second and third guess myself by thinking about the lack of whatever it was I thought I needed at the time. The point is that it’s all still there…and if you haven’t grabbed a copy of Bass Player magazine (you know the one, with JT on the cover), you probably should. Many of my concerns, and likely yours too, are addressed in there. The real difference with this album that I believe 100% is that the band is totally behind it. They made their own choices with the instrumentation – and I refuse to fault them for that. In fact, I applaud them.

I’ve seen a few of the songs live at this point: “Pressure Off”, “Paper Gods”, “Last Night in the City”, “Danceophobia”, “You Kill Me With Silence” and “What are the Chances.” That’s half of the regular album, and they haven’t even started the “real” tour yet! I won’t lie: I wanted to see what, if anything, changed with the band as they played from this album live. I wanted to see if they were still one cohesive unit. Let me tell you: they are all that and then some. Sure, there are some songs that require John on synth bass and Dom is in the back because the guitar isn’t quite as up front. There are songs where Roger’s drums – which are in fact STILL drums, thank you – are mostly electronic. There are also songs where everyone is nearly all over that stage, like “Last Night in the City”- you can’t help but dance to that one, and I challenge any EDM fan to stand still – it cannot be done. There are songs such as “What Are the Chances”,  when Dom lights up the entire theatre with his work. Make no mistake, he has made that song his very own at this point. When they play “You Kill Me With Silence”, you can feel the bass coming up right through the floor and it puts me on pins and needles in a way no other piece of music has ever done.  This band has made it a point to learn to play this music for the live show. Don’t miss out on the chance to see or hear any of that.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time should know that Amanda and I are “thinking” people. We really enjoy reading the lyrics, looking at the art work, watching the videos and analyzing how they all work together to create an overall picture. I think the one thing I love most about Paper Gods is that, like an onion, there are so many different layers. I can’t take the music at face value any more than I should take the cover. When you listen to the songs – it might be really easy to write them off as pure pop. They’re so much more than that once you add in the words, and when you start considering that some of the songs with the most depth are also done with a lot of synth, it’s an interesting sort of dynamic. Just as the cover is far more than a bunch of stickers put up on a backdrop, the album is far more than just some EDM or pop. You don’t actually HEAR that on the first listen, it takes much more attention than just one listen. If you take the album as a whole, you start getting the feeling that this album is an overall look at the career of the band. From “Paper Gods,” a song all about the materialistic nature of our society – using a term that could easily be applied to the band themselves, to “Last Night in the City, ” a tune that is truly about touring, to “Face for Today,” which really seems to be a good bit of advice to today’s young celebrities, on to “Only in Dreams,” which seems to echo some of the feelings a lot of fans have about the band…and finally “The Universe Alone,” which really seems to describe the end. I dare say that the album starts to feel just a bit like a loosely held concept album.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this band is so much smarter than any of us have ever given them credit for.

We waited a long, long, time for this album – and I’m telling you as a fellow fan, it was worth every single second of the wait. Give it many proper, thorough listens from start to finish. There’s a story in there, waiting to be discovered.

-R

 

 

 

 

Paper Gods: The Bonus Tracks

Like most of our readers, I’ve been settling in with Paper Gods for a couple of weeks now. During that time, I went from not feeling really sure about the album, to finding tracks that I really like, to falling in love with particular songs; and of course, to being able to list favorites. I have also done as Simon asked, and listened to the album the entire way through…. many times now. I have to say, listening to it all in a single sitting is worth the time. Not that the album literally tells a story – I don’t think it’s exactly a concept album in that regard, but I think that it does have its own tale to tell. Paper Gods gives a snapshot of a particular period of time in the lives of the people who created it, and I also think there is much to say about how the album translates to the history of the band in general – but that’s a topic for another time! Today, we’re talking bonus tracks!

For me, my favorites can almost all be found in the bonus tracks – whether we’re talking about the Target version or the Fan Deluxe version (and between them both you have ALL of the available bonus material).  I have to admit that I squealed more than once when I first listened to a couple of the songs, and I’ve really given a lot of thought as to why these songs weren’t included in the regular album.  I love Paper Gods, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t quite hitting all of my buttons, so to speak. I couldn’t put my finger on what was needed, which hindered me from truly embracing the album until I finally just decided it didn’t matter. My ears liked what I was hearing, and I felt like maybe I was just trying to pick out what might be wrong instead of enjoying what was there.

Fast forward to the day I had all of the bonus tracks at hand and sat down in my car to listen to them. The things I felt were missing seemed to be present in these songs, and for me, they round out the album beautifully and tick off all of the boxes that I still felt needed ticking. What was once an album I liked but didn’t love suddenly became an album I completely embraced. And in fairness, I really have thought a lot about why these are just bonus tracks. The truth is, as much as I love them – and they are all great songs on their own – they might not necessarily blend in that well with the album. In my head, the album – the 12 tracks that were released in the standard version of Paper Gods – create a full statement. I suppose in a lot of ways, it’s up to each of us to decide what the full meaning of that statement might be. Perhaps these extra songs, for whatever reason, don’t really add to that statement. Maybe they don’t blend as well as the others… but even so, I can count at least one of them on my “all time favorite songs” list.

Planet Roaring: At first, the song reminds me very much of “Flight of the Bumblebee,” 2015 edition.  The intro grabs your attention, and then suddenly Simon’s voice comes in, and I love the way he sounds. This is a song that, as far as my ears can tell, is meant for fans.  I love the uplifting sound, the words as only a real fan could recognize as our journey with this band.  I would absolutely be bowled over if they played it live – and the die hards would be singing right along, loud and proud.

Valentine Stones: This is a title that I’ve heard floating around for months…and I’m sure I’m not the only fan that thought to myself, “Valentine? That sounds vaguely familiar!” I have no idea what a Valentine Stone is, but I like it. I won’t lie, to me – this is essential Duran Duran. It’s the type of sound I expect, there’s no fancy featured vocalists, and it’s exactly what I needed to hear.

Northern Lights: I have read quite a few comments from people asking what that “walking around” part at the beginning is really about. I must be crazy, because I love it.  It reminds me of hiking, and yeah, I really like it when I’m wearing ear buds and hear it. I’m not super crazy about the beginning synthesizer notes – they remind me of what an alien ship would sound like if it were landing, but the rest of the song more than makes up for it.  THIS song reminds me of what “modern” Duran Duran should sound like.  The softness of the music with just a tinge of…I’m really not sure how to characterize it…darkness maybe(??)…in the vocals…it’s what I would expect Duran circa 2015 to be.

On Evil Beach: This song sounds like it could have been included on the bands very first album, albeit with perhaps a bit more technology involved than what the band may have had at hand back then. The lyrics are fairly simple and short, but the sound is as brand-Duran as anything I’ve heard in the past 37 years….and I like it.

Cinderella Ride: Without giving anything away (ha!)…this is my favorite of the bunch. Any element that I could have possibly missed from Paper Gods, as well as ALL of the elements I love best from a Duran Duran song are represented, along with gorgeous lyrics. I adore the guitar part (is that really a surprise?) and the strength of the drums – THIS is what I have missed.  In a word? Balance…with one of the best choruses I’ve heard since Duran Duran 1981. Modern, without completely losing the soul of what this band was, and is.

The bonus tracks have really filled out this album for me, and I find them playing them endlessly on repeat, going from one to another thinking to myself, “Oh, I love this one!” I can’t imagine I’m alone.

-R

PAPER GODS DEBUTS AT #10!

I never blog at night. However, some rules are meant to be broken at certain times, and tonight is that night.

I don’t know what made me decide to check Twitter as I prepared for the week ahead, but something told me to click, and am I ever thankful I did!

I’m happy to share that tonight, DDHQ posted some wonderful, astonishing, fantastic, and AMAZING news. I had been hearing murmurings that it was possible that Paper Gods might make the top ten on the charts this week, but there was something in me that just had doubts. Well…there’s no doubting now:

top ten announcement

Duran Duran has just accomplished something that doesn’t happen often to that many bands. Paper Gods made it’s DEBUT at #10 on Billboard’s Top 200. The last time any of their albums did this well was 22 years ago. Twenty-two years.

I can’t describe how proud I am of this band, and I know that pride is shared with many, many thousands of fans around the world. Let’s not allow this momentum to subside. I challenge everyone who reads this post to tweet the news along with a link to iTunes or Amazon to buy the album. Tell your friends – this band has a top ten bona fide HIT on their hands, and it’s worth giving it a shot, even if they want to just listen on Spotify!

iTunes Deluxe version

Paper Gods on iTunes (regular)

Paper Gods on Amazon

Paper Gods on Spotify
During a week where I would see tweet after tweet about Paper Gods charting in countries all over the world, I have to admit that I was concerned about the US. I didn’t know how the album would do, and I hoped that this would be the album to finally break the ceiling of the top 10. It just isn’t easy for the band to chart here – we’re a huge country, and what does well in the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily do well here. After all, this IS the country that spurred the Kershenbaum remixes of songs off of Rio, once upon a time. It’s an uphill battle to have a hit in America.

What fantastic news for a Sunday night!! I’d love to be at Red Rocks as the band gets the news, and let’s all work to see this album continue to  move up those charts! Our work is not done, in fact – it’s just beginning.  Until we can turn on the radio and hear Pressure Off anywhere we go, we’ve got to keep getting this album heard, and that is not an easy task. We all must do our part. Tell a friend!

What are you waiting for?? Go Tweet or post on Facebook!!

-R