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.

5 thoughts on “Paper Gods, Caveman Edition”

  1. There is something I’ve been noticing lately about the differences in my taste in Duran Duran music, and the tastes of other Duranies. Firstly it seems very few other Duranies liked the RCM album or Notorious (when it first came out), I happened to love both of these albums when they first came out and still love both. As for the new album the same thing seems to be happening, the songs I like the least, i. e. Pressure Off, Valentine Stones, and Butterfly Girl are getting much acclaim from 1st Gen Duranies. Where as so far the songs I’m liking the most off the new album are The Universe Alone, Northern Lights, Planet Roaring, and DANCEOPHOBIA (which I love), are all getting short shift from other 1st Gen Duranies. The one thing I have noticed the most in Duranie posts about why they like or dislike a new song is weather it sounds more modern or more like earlier Duran Hits. So far the more modern sounding pieces are not resonating with older fans, why is this? It’s ALL ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, it’s still Duran Duran, so what’s up with so much dislike for the NEW sound, huh?

    1. Different strokes for different folks. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I like or someone else likes. It’s all the same band, and we’re all on the same team. For the record though, I know plenty of Duranies that like the very same songs off of Paper Gods that you do. I think that this album has an incredibly wide variety of fantastic music on it, and it’s one of the few albums they’ve made that I can honestly say seems to appeal to just about every fan I know in some respect. That is something to cheer from the rooftops about, for sure. -R

    2. First, thank you for your comment! I agree with you that Duranies have different and varied tastes. I also think that Notorious was pivotal. If you were willing to go along for the ride on that album–minus two Taylors, with a much different sound than SATR, then you probably willing to buckle in for the ride on the subsequent albums, each getting father and farther away from that classic sound. Of course, I am biased as Notorious is one of my favorite DD albums!

      Regarding RCM, I really like much of it. Of course, many were upset with how that album came about (Andy leaving/being fired?, Reportage being shelved, working with Timbaland and Timberlake, etc.). But the actual music–from The Valley to RCM and Box Full O’ Honey and She’s Too Much and Cry Baby Cry—it’s still Duran Duran and it many cases it’s still great in my opinion.

      So…as Rhonda pointed out below…when you have a 35 year, 14 album catalogue, you are going to have varied styles, and I agree that Paper Gods seems to draw on this broad spectrum more so than any of their other albums, at least that I can think of.

  2. In the end, we all like what we like today, and then sometimes find out that we warm up to certain songs after getting more comfortable with them.

    In my case, once the band splintered, I found there was always a song or two that I didn’t care for, and that has rarely changed whether it is Proposition, Big Thing, Venice Drowning, Femme Fatale and even One of Those Days, She’s Too Much and Other People’s Lives, you get the idea. Funny enough, I even like all of Medazzaland, don’t love them all, but don’t dislike any. But, with Paper Gods there are none that I would put on the ‘don’t want to listen to’ list. It is diverse, has certain familiar cues, but overall there is a thread that connects them all. I make skip one now and then if I’m not in the mood for it, but it is such a fun, vibrant and energetic album, something that you could feel was missing with say, Pop Trash.

    I sensed early on that this album would stand tall maybe even up by RIO, which is pretty lofty, and I HAVEN’T been disappointed. They sound and look more confident than they have in a long, long time, since The Wedding Album in fact. It sounds like at long last they know precisely who and what they are, and they are filled with confidence, not arrogance and are Thankful to their fans and everyone who has stuck with them all this time!

    And, incredibly, they’ve shown everyone yet again that they are not musical cavemen, but are, in fact, like musical shaman with one foot in the future, and one foot in the past, and a mind and attitude fully conscious of the present.

    It is an album of relevance, of hope, and a celebration of life even as they can see that the sun will be setting on the horizon sooner than later. And, they didn’t want to leave us to face the universe alone without first giving us something to take with us, and to that I say;

    ‘Thank you Duran Duran, for being who you are, and for being so good at what you do!’

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