Now that we have copies of the new Duran Duran song and order confirmations for a few shows, it is time to dive a little deeper into the press release and the bio released on Genero.TV about the upcoming album. The reality here is that we simply cannot wait for the album and are seeking as many insights into what the album will be like that we can get!!! We might not be able to get our hands on the music yet, but if we can get some idea of what it will be like…maybe, just maybe we can survive until September! Therefore, we will spend a few days reading, re-reading, analyzing what has been said about the music on Paper Gods!
Today, we will start our analysis by looking at and discussing a few quotes about the album as a whole from the official press release that can be found here on the band’s official website and from the bio on Genero.TV.
Making the Album & Album Description:
Band politics play a role, too, he [Simon] says. “I think part of our strength is the tension in our music, which probably comes from the tension within the band. When you’re young, you’re not scared of upsetting people, and actually we can still push that sometimes. But harsh words are forgiven. Ultimately, we know that we will fight for each other, whatever the situation. We stick together. Nick and I can fight tooth and nail, over a lyric, or a musical part. And you would think in those moments that we hate each other’s guts, but really we love each other.”
“We have been through a lot together” John Taylor adds, “and now it’s very much a case of ‘Know thyself.’ At this point in our career, it’s about being really in touch with your identity, and drawing strength from the knowledge that you’ve all been on this incredible journey, a journey that is still going on. I think you can hear that in the new songs; we’re still learning things from and about each other, personally as well as musically.” For John, the most satisfying thing about the new album is that it captures the duality, the sense of conflict, at the heart of the band’s music. “In the original blueprint for the band, there was this dark, slightly progressive side to us, and it tended to get a little bit trampled on by the poptastic aspect. In that desire for pop satisfaction, you can forget what you set out to do. The new record really goes back to that strange early Duran mix: the hard-edged pop, coexisting with this dark, weird, experimental side.” “That’s something that’s essential to all of us,” agrees Nick. “It’s great to be able to lift people’s spirits – and your own – with a strong shot of pure pop, but the world we live in isn’t all just made of that stuff, so it seems natural to me, and has done since the very beginning, that we have kept, and still keep, one foot in the darker, more Gothic side of life.”
When I read these paragraphs, there was much that I liked. First of all, when I read that there was tension within the band, I was excited! That isn’t because I want the band to have conflict. Of course not, but I do like the sound of musical tension. When I think of my favorite Duran Duran songs and albums, they are filled with musical tension. In fact, I would say the basis of Duran Duran was to combine, to mesh different musical influences that are often contradictory in nature. After all, John Taylor once described his goal with Duran as Pretty Vacant by the Sex Pistols meets Good Times by Chic. You know punk vs. disco along with so many more influences. Clearly, the band is still trying to mesh those very different musical genres when I read phrases like “hard-edged pop”. Personally, that is exactly what I want. I want that duality that they described. I want music that is going to make me feel good but I also want music that understands the harsh reality of life. I think certainly the best Duran Duran albums were able to do just that. Look at All You Need Is Now, for example. There are some songs that definitely put you in a good mood and other songs that are introspective or thought provoking. Perfect. This duality, of course, reminds me of the album cover–fine art meets pop art. Reality and fun. Serious and frivolous. Now, of course, the question will be. Did they meet this goal in the music on the album? We shall see.
I think it’s so hard to discuss this without having heard anything BUT Pressure Off. That said, I’ve listened to the song “a few times” (Ok, so the truth is I’ve had it on repeat whenever I’ve been in my car during the past two days). At first, I ONLY heard what I would think John is calling “poptastic”. It’s tough not to hear that when you’ve got these incredibly bright chords and vocals going on in the chorus. (Someone I know said that it sounded way too “high school musical”, which really bothers me!) But, the more I listen to the very beginning of the song where Simon is singing “stepping out, stepping out, etc.” part – there is a dark-tinge to it because it’s in a slightly less “golden” (for lack of better description) chord than the chorus…and they use that great effect on it that makes it the tiniest bit gritty. It just gives the song a little more texture.
For me, what I’ve always identified as a sort of “musical tension” within the band has been the way the guitar plays off of everyone. I’ve always seen the guitar as providing that “hard edge” that John mentions. Back in the day, we would have just said it was Andy playing as Andy did…with the full rock attitude. Somehow though, that’s been lost to a major extent along the way, and I very much miss that. The last album had tiny glimpses of that, and I had high hopes for future Duran Duran. For me, it was that bit of hard-edged rock guitar that made the music interesting, and it didn’t take much to do that. As much as I like what Nile has done in Pressure Off with rhythm guitar providing a little funk, I have no sense of how the rest of the album will sound.
I do worry that they’ve completely missed the very element that makes their music unique – because Nile wasn’t trying (nor should he have for Pressure Off) to bring a rock “voice” to the lushness of the keyboards or stacking of harmonies. He played with a bit of funk, and a lot of rhythm, which was completely appropriate for the song. A friend of mine once said that he wished the band would allow more guitar. I agree, because no matter what the band says, their records NEED it. I think it could be done because they’ve done it before with brilliant results. They just need to be able to trust the person/people they have playing in that role…and I suspect that’s the real problem. For whatever reason, they just won’t give any guitar player that type of permanence or ownership.
Where Will This Album Fit in the Duran Duran Catalog?
One person that is mentioned in the press releases is the engineer Josh Blair:
Nick says of the collaboration “He really was our anchor throughout the project, helping to sculpt the sound of the album and presiding over every detail. He was there from the start, and that gave us a feeling of continuity from the last record.”
“Notorious was a strong touchstone for the band,” says Roger Taylor. “All You Need is Now definitely reflected our earlier albums, but our starting point here was Notorious. We’re fortunate to be able to be inspired by our own back catalogue – not many bands can say that.”
How Good Is It?:
“I know that artists always like to say this,” Nick continues, “but truly, without a doubt, I think this is our best record since The Wedding Album. Being in this band is like being married to three other people. We take care of each other, but we also argue all the time, too, particularly about music. But that’s essential. If you don’t argue, don’t have strong opinions, that’s when you end up producing junk. We fight for every note – literally. But it doesn’t feel like a battle. It feels like a victory.”
“We’ve allowed ourselves the time to make music that we can be proud of,” adds Le Bon . “I judge what we release by my favourite albums — Horses, Harvest, Let It Bleed, Blue, Transformer, Aladdin Sane. Those are classic albums. The only rule is it’s got to be music you can live with for the rest of your life.”
I love that there is some continuity from All You Need Is Now. I, for one, loved that album and dislike the idea that they felt that they had to change so dramatically from something that worked. That isn’t to say that I don’t embrace change or progress but I don’t like that at the expense of rejecting came before. Instead, I like the idea of acknowledging what came before in order to take what worked and build off of that while getting rid of what didn’t. I guess that is the idea with bouncing from the Notorious album, too. While Notorious might not be my favorite album, I know that there were some gems there and I’m anxious to see how that album influenced this one.
As for it being the best album since the Wedding Album, again, I have to say that I loved All You Need Is Now WAY better than the Wedding Album. Therefore, that statement from Nick doesn’t really give me the perspective I need. I wish he had compared it to a different album than that one. That said, I do like hearing that they view the album as a “victory” and that Simon believes that this is an album that they can live with for the rest of their lives.
I really have zero sense of where this album is going to fit just yet. Admittedly, Notorious has never been one of my favorite DD albums. It strayed so far from what came before OR after that in a lot of ways, it feels like it was made by a very different band altogether. (I cannot WAIT to get my hate mail for that one!! It’s only my opinion, people…we all have one!) However, there are certainly elements from Notorious that they’ve carried with them along the way. I see most of their albums as having done similar, where they focus on certain aspect for the album and then use elements from that on later albums. Personally, when I hear Pressure Off, I hear guitar and even keyboards from Notorious, but also a lot of brightness and production aspects straight from All You Need is Now. I think they even learned a lot from recording Red Carpet Massacre because I think the beginning of Pressure Off gives a teensy bit of a club/urban feel, which really helps to offset the pop a little, which I think is genius.
As for this record being the best since The Wedding Album, I think the jury is still out on that one until we hear the whole thing from start to finish. (many, many times) I just can’t even begin to wonder what the rest of the album will sound like, and I’m definitely NOT wishing my summer away so that I can find out any faster!
Tomorrow, we will continue with the analysis of the descriptions surrounding the individual songs off of Duran’s upcoming album, Paper Gods. Until then, let us know what you thought of these quotes from the official press release!
-A & R