Tag Archives: Paper Gods

I’m (Probably) Not Going to Sleep Tonight

I don’t know how long we’ve been on lockdown now. My youngest came home from school on March 13th, and that was the day I found out she wasn’t going back on Monday. I think it was the following Thursday that Heather and her boyfriend came up here because her studio had been closed, and I believe that March 19. Our shelter-in-place order might’ve come out the following day. Regardless, I’ve been pretty much at home since the 13th. I have left the property a few times, all for essentials of course. You know, things like hard cider, wine, oh…and a birthday cake for the youngest. All three kids home, husband working here, four cats, two dogs, and now 24 chickens. It’s April 30th (I originally typed May 30th only to find it later and fix it). I’ve got to tell you, I’m not doing great.

Every day feels like a re-do of the day before. I’ve said that here already, so now it has become Groundhog Day on Daily Duranie too. Sorry. I try to find the good things to laugh about, and there are some. I also get mad, and I’m not going to lie about that. I am furious we’re going through this. I don’t let that thought consume me, but some days like today, it is just plain difficult to manage.

I’m not sleeping that great either. Oddly, I fall asleep fine, but about two hours later, I wake up. Most of the time, I’m in pain when I wake up. My neck has really been bothering me lately and I think I must be stiffening up when I sleep. So, I wake up and then toss and turn unless I get up and take Ibuprofen. This is an every single evening exercise for me, and I wish I could still go to my old chiropractor. Alas, the OC is five hours away and I’m just nervous enough about someone adjusting my neck that I haven’t found a new one. Yay.

Then there’s my weight. I am not equal to the number on the scale (truth be told I haven’t stepped on my scale in months – and that is 100% out of fear. I’d really rather not know.), but the mirror isn’t lying and the story it’s telling me is that I need to be social distancing myself from the fridge. Like – I should be living in a tent on the back half of my property – kind of social distancing. It’s not good, friends. The pandemic has not been kind in that department, no matter how much time I spend outside. Even the good old “weed abatement” isn’t helping this year. I would have thought I’d sweat it off by now, but no.

Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s birthday. I tried to make the day special for her, and she got plenty of presents with still more to come. I’d ordered her gifts on April 1st, and yet they’re still not due here until May 7th. Thankfully, she’s my easiest kid and doesn’t mind celebrating twice. I made her pancakes for breakfast, gourmet soft pretzels as a snack, and then potstickers for dinner (weird that the menu for the day began with the letter “P”, right? Coincidence!) I had ordered a pink champagne cake (again, “P”) that she’d requested from our famous Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, and the highlight of my month was driving in my car to go get it. It was the first time I’d driven since March 13. That is crazy.

It was also Amanda’s birthday. I texted her, and I’m not going to lie – it took all the energy I had just to do that. I kept it short, wished her the best – because I really do – but I just couldn’t chat like I normally might. I’m through trying to make excuses for it. I’m struggling. It’s that simple. She asked me how it was here, and of course I said fine. What else am I going to say? I’m not under the impression I have it worse than anyone else. It would be crazy for me to explain my wild mood swings between “happy to have my kids here” and “completely pissed off at the entire world”.

Yes, I really do feel that way sometimes. At least I admit it. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I have one hell of a temper sometimes. I’m trying my best to remain calm and reasonable. Sometimes, that feels like more of a challenge than it probably should.

It wasn’t long after that when my husband came out into the kitchen. he was fiddling with his phone, and the next thing I know, I heard Mark Goodman’s voice over our Sonos One speaker. (A clear product plug if I’ve ever seen one…thank you Sonos for keeping my husband employed!!) He was introducing Duran Duran for a Town Hall to discuss Paper Gods.

I hadn’t ever listened to it before. Let me say – I didn’t get to listen to the entire thing (we have six people in this house, and as I’ve said before – I rarely get through anything without being interrupted 45,000 times. Yesterday was no exception.), but it was the best half hour of my day. I listened, smiled, made dinner, and forgot about Covid-19. My blood pressure seemingly returned to normal. *sigh*

There are days when I know I need to stay off of social media. This is one of them, but I wanted to find out about this new order from my governor that begins tomorrow. He shut all of the beaches and parks. I live close to Morro Bay, and we drive there pretty often, so I wanted to know more. It is very difficult to talk myself through my feelings when I see perfect strangers talk how we should all stay inside until a vaccine is found. Or, when people I know consider one “upside” of this virus being that perhaps an entire political party will kill themselves off. Kindness all the way, I guess???

Nope. I shut Facebook down pretty quickly after that. It isn’t even about how *I* feel, it’s that the world has gone off the rails!! That, combined with whatever I’m feeling that day is a nasty combination. I get it. Everyone is stressed. We all say shit sometimes. I just can’t take it today. So, I went to Twitter very quickly to check the Daily Duranie account. That’s when I saw a post from Duran Duran. Thank goodness for Duran Duran.

They posted what they characterized as a “never before seen” video from a Paper Gods photo shoot. I have to tell you guys, I don’t often take time to watch this stuff. There have been any number of things they’ve posted over the years that I just kind of skim over or scroll past. It isn’t that I don’t care – it’s just that I don’t have time to consume it all. So I don’t. But this time, I did. Set to “Last Night in the City”, the short video was cute. I saw the band smiling and laughing, and I’m not going to lie – I nearly cried. It was so nice to remember that once upon a time, I went to shows. We planned to do things together. I clinked glasses with Simon in a hotel bar. We’d smile at them onstage, and maybe we’d even extend a wave to one another. I’d sit on the edge of my seating waiting for new music. Amanda and I took road trips. We also spoke regularly, and I didn’t feel like waking up and getting through every single day was a trial. I miss those times. How about you?

So am I doing well? No. No I’m not. But I’m trying. I just thought it was better to be honest, and let the few regular readers we have left know that yeah – this is a struggle right now. My hope is fading a bit, but I’m working on it. What about you?

-R

I wish *I* Knew What’s in Their Head(s)

It is always nice when DDHQ gives me something to think about and chew on while blogging. Yesterday, they asked the “simple” question of what has been the most surprising change they’ve made during the course of their constantly evolving life as a band?

Naturally, this question is fully loaded. I can cite about 35 surprising things just off the top of my head. Should I answer the question from the POV I once had as a preteen Duranie? How about as an adult? Fan blogger? Overall?? Could I even begin to decide on ONE thing that has surprised me more than all others?

Let’s face it, there have been many things to shock the hell out of me over the years. Roger left the band, first of all. In my mind, that wasn’t supposed to happen in 1985, or any time. I can tell you exactly how I responded to that news: “Why is it always the band member *I* like that has to leave first??” Imagine that sentence loaded with all of the self-centered emotion of a 14 year old girl, and you’d pretty much have my feelings in a nutshell. The music didn’t surprise me much, but having my guy leave certainly did!

Warren came along right as the 80s were about to leave the building. Sure, I’d seen him getting in there, but to be fair – I tried not to notice too much. I figured that as long as he towed the line (Andy’s line, I might add), it would all be fine. Say whatever you want about him – at the time I didn’t know anything about Warren except that he wasn’t Andy Taylor. That fact, was unsurmountable, but I had high hopes until I started seeing one interview after another where Warren took great joy in announcing just how much better of a guitarist he was. To me, *that* was what was so surprising about him, not his playing. I’d always been taught that if you’re good at something, it’s your actions that put the proof in the pudding, not the words.

Then there was Ordinary World. Just when I had begun to think that was all there was, the band proved they had more gas in the tank! The song was nothing like “Rio” or “Planet Earth”, and yet they were getting more radio play than they had in years. I wondered how long it might last. Yes, I know Warren is responsible for the guitar part. It is not my favorite song by a long shot, but I appreciate that his work kept the band going.

More recently, there’s been Red Carpet Massacre. The album surprised me because it seemed like such a departure from anything they’d done previously. People have said there’s no “Duran Duran” sound, but I’d humbly disagree. There are certain qualities to most, if not all Duran Duran songs over the years that I can absolutely attribute to the band. Simon’s stacked harmonies, John’s bass lines, even the atmospheric synthesizer and keyboards from Nick. Those elements seemed to be missing or at least very hidden in the mix on Red Carpet Massacre. Add to that the likes of Timberlake and Timbaland being VERY audible, and you’ve got one surprising album.

Anybody remember the days when John was on Twitter? How about Simon’s vocal problems in 2011? Both things shocked the heck out of me to some extent. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to engage with a real member of Duran Duran on social media…or anywhere….ever…and I did! I tend to wonder if perhaps John didn’t see the value in being on Twitter, or that it made the relationship between fans and the band more complicated, between all of the “likes” and “follows”. That is certainly understandable, but the one thing I am grateful for when it comes to social media, is having that time. As crazy as it sounds, it made the band feel a lot more human to me, and while I can’t account for the feelings of every fan – I can say it was more than I could have ever hoped for as a kid, which in turn makes it one of the most surprising things this band, or members within, have done.

Paper Gods surprised me because it was all of the things that Red Carpet Massacre was not, incorporated into all of the things that Duran Duran has always been. While I am not going to say the album was perfect, I can appreciate the effort to modernize Duran Duran’s sound. It still surprised me though, coming off of All You Need is Now. Two incredibly different albums within the same decade. Amazing.

All of those things, plus so many others have kept me captivated and learning to expect the unexpected from Duran Duran over the years. The surprises have kept the band fresh, and their sound from becoming stale. I could name probably ten more things that made me sit up and take notice over the years. But, one thing above all else stands out in my mind as being the most shocking.

One night in 2003, I snuck into my husband’s office downstairs while my kids were playing and Walt was in the garage. Earlier I figured I could pop onto duranduran.com and check out the message boards before anyone (Gavin) learned how to build a bomb. What came up for me as the website loaded was beyond my wildest dreams. Five faces stared back at me, and even then, I was confused. Wait. Could it really? Nah…… But wait, is that…is that John? If that’s John, who are those other guys?? It was only after I read, and re-read the headline announcing a show at the Pacific Amphitheater over and over, and over again, that I even allowed myself to consider that maybe, just maybe I was going to be able to see all five members of my very favorite band for the first time. So yes, for me, having the fab five reunite was, by far, the most surprising thing this band has ever done, at least, as far as I’m concerned….and that’s not a dare for them to try to up the ante!

-R

On the Other Side

I was thinking this morning about this band, and how with each album, particularly post-reunion, we seem to run into roadblocks.

Granted, Duran Duran isn’t alone. Crazy things happen all of the time, and sometimes to all of us at once – like right now. I just had to chuckle a bit when I thought about it all though.

During Astronaut, they were managing their own reunion. I believe John used the words “Union of the Snake” in some way to describe the sometimes tenuous recording sessions and band meetings. So while to fans, the band getting back together wasn’t a terrible thing (far from it), for the band it must have been incredibly fraught with frustration at times.

Red Carpet Massacre saw the end of the Fab Five. It began as one record and ended as another. I don’t think the recording process is ever that smooth – ask any five musicians their opinions on writing and recording, and I’m sure you’ll get five different responses, but to have your guitarist quit and go from self-producing to working with someone you’ve never met before couldn’t have helped.

Most people likely recall All You Need is Now. Goodness knows I sure do. What started off with a bang (at least with fans), ended up having a serious false start as Simon had to end the UK tour before it started due to vocal problems. The momentum ramped up, only to hit a virtual wall. Crazy times indeed.

Paper Gods seems to be the outlier here….although I know that John said something (why is it always John, or is it just that I pay more attention to him?? Hmm…I’ll add that to my list of future contemplations!) about having to overcome some sort of serious strife or gulf between band members in order to finish the album. My guess is that there’s always something!

Which brings us to present. The unnamed album #15. It seemed as though the creative process was on a good roll. They were nearing the finish line, and sure enough – Coronavirus. Come on now. They’ve had festivals canceled. The 40th anniversary is now going to be a 41st, or even a 45th if we’re not careful. Hyde Park, The 501st and 502nd DD show at The Cosmopolitan (a minor exaggeration on my part)….all of it wiped out for the spring and summer. 2020 has been canceled, as far as I can tell.

The one thing I will say about Duran Duran, even when I’m frustrated, even when I don’t love some of their decisions – is that they’re resilient. Quitting is not in their collective vocabulary. This is a band that could have fallen apart a dozen or more times by now. Things that could have crushed other bands have ended up making this one stronger. (pretty sure there’s a saying about something like that) Sure, John (I think this is the third time I’ve mentioned him in this single blog…) had Coronavirus, and yeah, that pandemic has pretty much stopped the entire world on its axis for a bit, but they’ll be back.

-R

Still Reaching

The time has come

Lately, I’ve been feeling far removed from the Duran Duran fandom. That isn’t so much a symptom of some personal strife keeping me from fully embracing all that is the band and fandom, as it is the effect of being between albums. Even so, aside from occasional dinners with my friend Lori, whom I met while road tripping to see Duran Duran in 2012, and writing this blog, there’s not much going on in my own fandom. (Real life, however, is very busy, and I’m enjoying it!) While I haven’t minded the quiet in Duranland, and I’m not in a hurry to have whatever is happening next to take place, I can’t help but notice the difference in how I’ve adjusted.

Before Paper Gods was released, I was chomping at the bit, almost angrily so, wondering why the album was taking so long. I felt like there was very little news coming from the band, and in a lot of ways for me personally, that seemed to make the waiting worse. This time around, for reasons I’m not entirely certain, I don’t seem to notice.

There still isn’t a lot of news coming from the band. I would say I know even less about this album, or what is to come from 2020 than I did Paper Gods. I barely batted an eye when John mentioned that the album wasn’t at a stage where it could be discussed, for instance. When rumors of summer dates recently trickled their way down to me, I didn’t really think twice about them. I figured when and if they’re announced, that would be the time to concern myself. I can’t imagine I’ve actually learned the art of patience before I turned the magic 5-0, so what is it?

Change

A lot of it, I think, really has come from just knowing this band. The album will arrive when it is ready, and hopefully not a second before. Dates are announced when it is time to announce them. Many of them will be in places I’m not able to travel. That said, I’ve already done more than my share. I’ve had a great deal of fun over the last fifteen years that I’ve traveled to see Duran Duran. I’m in a good place with all of that, and despite some objections from well-meaning friends otherwise, I’m seriously and truly not the least bit worried about how I’ll feel when and if concert dates are released. I don’t think I’ll feel left out, because I have one heck of a lot going on here at home. I’ll still do what I can, but the likelihood of traveling much beyond my bordering states is pretty slim. Believe it or not – I’m fine with that. I feel good about where I’m at.

Much more of my sense of disconnect though, comes from something different. I think I’m tired. Seeing posts from people who intentionally knock other fans just makes me roll my eyes in disgust. I really have come to hate the near-constant assertions of “I’m the best fan because ________________”. In that sense, I’m exhausted! Just today I saw a tweet from someone that read “eff the RCM haters”. Really? OK. That’s one hell of a way to make friends and influence people, but great. Sure, you can like or dislike whatever music you want. I couldn’t care less…and maybe that is what is really different from me now than five years ago.

At one point, I might have responded to that person in some sort of effort to A. take their attitude down a notch, and B. to prove that I’m not such a horrible fan for not loving every single song they’ve ever written. I’m sure it would have devolved into the type of “shouting” match that seems to happen on social media and nothing would have ended up being accomplished. I’d love to believe I have somehow grown past the urge to do that, but I don’t think that’s entirely it. This morning when I read a few posts of that vein, all I felt was an enormous sense of just being tired. I clicked off of the thread, put my phone down, and debated whether or not I even wanted to write. Is that a good or a bad thing? Difficult to say.

Go round together

I still love Duran Duran. That hasn’t changed one bit. I care about those guys, and intend to support whatever they come out with because seriously – forty years in, they’re still writing, recording, and performing. I’m going to applaud that because it’s far more than I’ve ever done or could hope to do. Their blood, sweat, and tears are worthy of my respect.

What I do struggle with though, is that although I write a blog for fellow fans to read – I am finding that I’m opting not to connect online any more than by writing each day. Whereas at one point I spent a great deal of time trying to cultivate more friendships, or chatting with fans, nowadays – I just don’t. It is as though I’m happy to go back to the band being more of a singular activity for myself – kind of as though I’ve run the entire trail and I’m back to where I first started. I never thought I’d get to the point where I just said “Enough!”, but here I am.

Music’s between us


Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy having heartfelt, genuine, knowledgable conversations about the music. Any music, for that matter. I find that I get far more out of talking about the history of rock and pop music in conjunction with American social history, than I do when I analyze why fans seem to fall into the same predictable patterns over, and over again. Again, I can’t decide if any of this is really a good thing, or a bad thing, or even how it might affect me or the blog going forward. That’s probably why I chose to write about it today. Sometimes, it helps to sort it all out. Today, I finish feeling conflicted, but at the same time a little relieved. At least my feelings are out there, and perhaps at a later date, everything will be clear to me. Until then, I’m off to enjoy some sunshine.

-R

Fight it, or Invite It

Honesty

Yesterday morning, I received a text from Jason, letting me know that he’d posted the blog. (check it out here if you haven’t yet!) Somewhat cryptically, he mentioned that he hoped it wasn’t too rough. The guest blogger he’d worked with was open and candid with regard to her feelings about the videos they’d reviewed. He wanted an honest reaction, and judging by what I read, I believe he received just that.

I replied saying although I hadn’t yet read the piece, I wasn’t concerned. Following up, I told him that I valued honesty, and looked forward to reading it in a few minutes.

After making the drive to school, I pulled into a parking spot and grabbed my phone. He’d sparked my curiosity, and I found that I didn’t want to wait until I got home. As I read both his parts and those of his guest, I chuckled in more than one spot. I found Aurora Montgomery’s comments to be refreshingly genuine. She delivered them with a humorous approach that I aspire to incorporate into my own writing.

One particular sentence about “Electric Barbarella” made me cackle. “This robot woman exists and dresses solely for them, and from the beginning it was my sincere hope that she would end up murdering the band before the video’s close.” Brutal honesty. I like it.

Cuteness and condescension

Over the years, my writing and open opinion have taken a bit of a roller coaster effect. From love letter to brutally cynical, gushingly cute to overly critical, I don’t know if I’ve ever stumbled upon the magic formula for writing. It is difficult to compose a fan blog each day knowing in the back of your mind that many will never take you seriously. I’ve gone from being embraced to shunned in just a few keystrokes. Consistently though, I’ve remained honest.

When we invite guests to share their opinions, we accept that not everyone is on the same page. In the case of Aurora Montgomery, she’s not even a Duran Duran fan. Instead, she is a respected professional. I don’t think it has to be a given that a critic dislikes everything Duran Duran has done. However, I respect that her point of view will be vastly different (and unbiased) from my own.

Remaining unbiased is difficult. There is no denying that someone like me, a (nearly) lifelong fan of Duran Duran, is going to have a certain amount of emotion leading my opinions. The idea that somehow, on a blog named Daily Duranie, we would be unbiased is laughable. Fellow fans have commented saying that our blog is cute, following up by saying we’re so biased and fan-girly. All of the above delivered with just a bit too much all-knowing condescension to be kind.

Emotion is a complication

I tend to react by grimacing, knowing that there’s little I can do to change the perception. It’s irritating. On one hand, if I didn’t have any emotion for Duran Duran, why on earth would I write every day about them? On the other, I stopped being “cute” in about 1982. I realize blogging about Duran Duran isn’t changing the world. It isn’t going to solve the climate crisis, or find the cure for cancer. It is about music. Each of us who dedicate the time and energy to write here are fans.

Emotion is a complication. For me, it’s a constant struggle to find the sweet spot between having fun, acknowledging my fandom, while still exercising some critical thinking in the process. I love Duran Duran, but I don’t love everything they’ve done. That’s not likely to change, and that’s okay!

You want real?

I don’t live every second of my life worshipping the sand that Rio danced on. I still believe that Red Carpet Massacre was a half-hearted attempt to stay in the good graces of a label and remain relevant. That doesn’t mean I don’t love Rio. I’ve found several songs on Red Carpet Massacre to enjoy.

Paper Gods wasn’t an “instant like” for me. It took me months to come to terms with it. I did eventually bond with several songs, and there are more than a few lines of lyric on there that feel very much like they were written for me. Personally though, I think their best has yet to come, they’ve just got to find it. I hope they don’t give up before it gets written.

I was never a Warren fan, and and would like to slap the fans who grovel at his feet while he puts down Duran Duran whenever and however possible. It’s gross, and by the way—geniuses don’t typically need to go around reminding people that they are, in fact, genius. I still don’t like the fact that they don’t have a dedicated guitarist – even if that guitarist isn’t Dom. Do what you gotta do, but find someone who you’ll agree to having as a band member that has an actual relationship with you and your music. If pressed, I’d tell you that the one element they’ve been missing from their recorded music is a good, emotive, rock guitar that is the polar opposite of the synthesizer line. That goes across the board, from Seven and the Ragged Tiger through to Paper Gods. Bam. Those are my opinions, even if you don’t like ‘em. Real, and unapologetic. Yet, I’ll still be among the first to shout from the rooftops whenever Duran Duran needs. Go figure.

Emotion doesn’t make it unworthy

All of those opinions come with forty years of emotion, and ten years of blogging experience behind them. Does that make them any less worthy? Not to me, but please— you decide on your own. Even a music critic writes with emotion. Critics love music, even if they don’t love the album or even the band they’re reviewing at the time.

For the record, I think the video would have gone better with your suggested ending, Aurora. There’s some emotion for ya!

-R

Question of the Day: Sunday, December 29, 2019

The last winner: Paper Gods

Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Planet Earth or Pressure Off?

Coming Soon
Which Song Better Represents the Paper Gods Tour?
Planet Earth
Pressure Off

Question of the Day: Sunday, December 22, 2019

The last winner: Only in Dreams

Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Ordinary World or Paper Gods?

Coming Soon
Which Song Better Represents the Paper Gods Tour?
Ordinary World
Paper Gods

May The Force Be with…Duran Duran?

Several years back, I found an article online that compared the first three Duran Duran albums to the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a brilliant comparison; unfortunately, I never bookmarked the article and have since been unable to track it down. (Note to readers: ping
me on Twitter (@ckshortell) if you happen to find it.)

I think a similar comparison could be made with some of Duran’s post-reunion albums and the newest Star Wars trilogy. Actually, there’s probably a longer comparison that could compare the entire Star Wars canon with all 14 Duran albums and side projects. But for now, let’s stick to a simple, but apt, comparison.


The Force Awakens/All You Need is Now

The latest Star Wars trilogy launched with 2015’s The Force Awakens. Ten years after the end of the financially successful but critically panned prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens, directed
by J.J. Abrams, was actually as much a “soft reboot” of the Star Wars franchise as it was a sequel trilogy. Hugely successful, the movie introduced new characters into the mythology while employing some heavy nostalgia. A bunch of plucky rebels must destroy a big bad planet killing machine! Or, in this instance, a star system killing machine! There were some changes, however. The hero was now a woman, played by the very charismatic Daisy Ridley; the bad guy, Kylo Ren, was still “in training” and not all powerful; and overall, the cast was much more diverse than the original.


Sound familiar?

Think back to nine years ago and All You Need is Now. That album came on the heels of 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, itself a massacre of circumstance (after Andy’s departure and the shelving of Reportage) and collaboration (with very un-Duranie collaborators like Timbaland joining the team.) (For the record: I mostly like RCM. But for the purposes of this comparison, I’m going with how most of the fanbase reacted to it. Which was badly. Very badly.)

Where did Duran go? To Mark Ronson, as much the “hot” producer as J.J. Abrams was the “hot” director for the Star Wars franchise. And what did Ronson do? Basically “reboot” Duran by helping them craft an album closer to their original, early 80’s sound than anything they had done since. The video about the creation of “Girl Panic” is a microcosm of this approach. “Play the drums like ‘Girls on Film’, Ronson told Roger. And the guitar, asked Dom? “Like Andy played it…on Girls on Film.” And on and on.

But All You Need is Now was more than just a retread of the early material—it genuinely worked, with catchy hooks and classic Duran choruses that had been lacking from many of the previous albums. One review asked, “Where have all these songs been hiding all these years?” Yes, there were clear nods to Rio. But the album also paid homage to other Duran eras. “Safe” channeled the funk from Notorious. The industrial sounding keyboard synth on the title track,
coupled with Dom’s guitars, brought to mind the more rock-oriented 90’s Duran sound, while the chorus was vintage Duran.

Like The Force Awakens, All You Need is Now did add some diversity to the mix. Simon shared the vocals more on AYNIN than on any previous album, with guest appearances by Kelis and Ana Matronic, as well as broadcaster Nina Hossain providing spoken word codas to two songs.

Overall, All You Need is Now succeeded for the same reasons that The Force Awakens did: it created something new, yet familiar, with a broad appeal to both core and new fans alike.

Paper Gods/The Last Jedi

There was a great deal of anticipation following the huge success of The Force Awakens. Specifically, the next movie was set to feature the return of Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy. Mark Hamill reprised the role and was in the closing seconds of The Force Awakens, teasing fans and making the two-year gap between movies seem interminable. The Last Jedi also featured a different director—Rian Johnson—who took over the reins from
J.J. Abrams.

Unlike The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi proved to be a very divisive movie within the Star Wars fanbase. Luke Skywalker’s portrayal as a bitter, older Jedi who intentionally cut himself off from the Force came as a shock to fans, who wanted to see their childhood hero wield his lightsaber and confidently bring the First Order (the bad guys in the movie) to their knees. It didn’t help matters that Mark Hamill was quoted as questioning the script.

The b-plot of the movie—the flight of the Resistance from the First Order—also ends in disaster for our heroes, which didn’t sit well with fans, who thought that much of that plotline was pointless. And, spoiler alert: most of the Resistance dies. In fact, there are so few remaining rebels that they are all able to fit on the Millennium Falcon at the film’s conclusion.

The movie also seemed to gut the new trilogy of any sense of mystery by resolving (or simply negating) far too many plot points than a middle act typically would. Who, exactly, was Supreme Leader Snoke? Apparently, it didn’t matter as he was cut in two by Kylo Ren. Who were Rey’s parents? They were “nobodies” – a major subversion of the “Luke, I am your father” revelation from The Empire Strikes Back.

Meanwhile, on planet earth, Duran Duran followed up the fan friendly All You Need is Now with Paper Gods, an album seemingly as divisive among the fan base as the loathed Red Carpet Massacre. Again, I will freely acknowledge my bias: While I don’t love every single track on Paper Gods, on balance, I think it’s an amazing album, possibly their best since The Wedding Album. As usual, my opinion is likely in the minority among the Duran fan base.

Like The Last Jedi, Paper Gods subverts expectations. The title track is like nothing we’ve really heard from Duran before—it’s an epic opener, a cross between “New Religion” and “The Valley” in sheer scope. And therein lies the problem for some—why would you ever want to channel “The Valley” in any way, shape, or form? (For the record: I love “The Valley”. So I’m fine with it.)

“Last Night in the City” follows, and once again, we’ve shed the 80’s formula from AYNIN. Synths dominate; guitar is largely absent. The band seemed more concerned with a sound that would find chart success in 2015 vs. 1983.

Paper Gods, ultimately, feels like a bunch of different albums lumped onto one playlist. There’s the modern, dance oriented, sequel to Red Carpet Massacre that can be heard on tracks like, “Last Night In the City,” “Danceophobia,” “Face for Today,” and “Change the Skyline.” Then there are darker, more experimental cuts like the title track and “You Kill Me With Silence.” There’s more funk on this album than anything since Notorious, as found on “Butterfly Girl”, “Pressure Off,” “Only in Dreams,” and even “The Universe Alone.” And then there are songs that refuse to fit in any box: the dreamy “What Are the Chances,” in the classic tradition of Duran ballads; the 70’s sounding “Sunset Garage,” which sounds like nothing heard before on any previous Duran album. Even “Face for Today”—which I lumped in with the “modern dance” set of tracks—features as classic a Duran chorus as you will ever hear, that could hav been ripped from 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger sessions.

Paper Gods, like The Last Jedi, dared to be different; it dared to cover new (and old) ground. And both caused their respective fan bases some consternation, as they seemingly failed to live up to the expectations set by the preceding work.

DD15 / Rise of Skywalker

Which brings us to the present. Expectations are high across both the Duran and Star Wars fandoms. In a little over a month, the new Star Wars trilogy concludes with the highly anticipated Rise of Skywalker. The trailer has offered some tantalizing clues, but overall, the plot continues to be shrouded in mystery.

Likewise, the next Duran Duran album is slated for release…possibly in the spring of next year? We all know not to give too much credence to when the band claims its new album will be out. But everything seems lined up for a new album and tour to (finally!) commemorate the 40th anniversary of the band. We’ve gotten a few details on it—Simon claimed recently that it’s an album that will “make you dance” like “Rio”—but we’ve heard similar claims about previous albums that didn’t necessarily turn out true.

What is true is that both the next Star Wars movie and Duran Duran album are highly anticipated by their fans, and many are hoping for change of direction. Will fans be happy with the finished product? Or after so many hears, is it an impossible task that we’ve set up these artists to accomplish?

Stay tuned…and May the (Duran) Force Be With You

The Heart, The Mind, The Albums

a dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego

As a music writer who recently lost his primary publishing outlet, the kind offer from Daily Duranie to be their intern and write once a week really softened the disappointment. Over the last few weeks, I have dove back into every corner of my Duran Duran memories and music to establish a mental base of operations for future writing. I’ve listened to every album again and watched some DVDs that I had missed. In the end, I realized one thing about myself. I am a divided self. At least, I am with Duran Duran albums. 

When I think about Duran Duran albums, there is a friction between my critical mind (which reviews an album or two each week) and my nostalgic heart. If you asked either piece of me to rank the albums, the lists would look quite different. So, I had to make a list. It’s a guy thing. We like making lists and arranging our taste in some sort of hierarchy that proves how smart we are. We are aware of this issue and we are working on it. 

The Best Duran Duran Albums

Heart/(Mind)

1. (1.) Rio

Rio is never a debate. From the artwork to the videos to every single song, the album captured a moment in popular culture and convinced us the our lives could be a James Bond film in some way. The bass lines are the stuff of legend and the band never again found such a perfect balance between Andy’s aggressive guitars and Nick’s carefully arranged melodies. Every band has “that” album where they are in the zone but sometimes you get tired of it. Not with Rio

(What he said.)

2. (2.) Duran Duran

A formidable debut album. From the Buzzcocks’ 1977 Spiral Scratch EP to this sounds like an eternity but it was only four years from punk to post-punk to Duran Duran. The musical maturity is already there in the arrangements and the band still sounds young and hungry. If this and Rio were all they ever released, Duran Duran would be revered like Joy Division. 

(OK, not Joy Division. But this debut rocks harder than people remember. The later addition of “Is There Something I Should Know?” in 1983 actually disrupts the album with Alex Sadkin’s production sounding too bright and colorful amongst the Colin Thurston tracks. Rarely talked about by critics, this is one of the strongest debuts of the decade.)

3. (5.) Big Thing

Experimental with purpose and the proper dose of Warren on guitar has aged this album extremely well. “All She Wants Is” still sounds pristine with a low-end that can shake the room. From moody ballads to driving dance tracks, Duran Duran colorfully (those outfits…) flaunt the ease with which they juggle pop and art. 

(Your neon colored eyes were at this show in 1989 and the band was fading in popularity. This album’s lukewarm success further pushed the band asunder of popular culture so how grand could it all be? Well, it is pretty grand but “Drug (It’s Just A State of Mind)” sounds completely out of place and is a total duff. If only there was an incredible B-side that should have replaced it. Hmm.)

4. (14.) Arena

The opening drums of “Is There Something I Should Know”. Is anybody hungry? Switch-it off. Was I chasing after rainbows? So many lines ignite the memory of listening to and watching this concert. Hearing “Seventh Stranger” on the last tour with the footage from 1984 playing above the stage was truly special. 

(How many live albums are really not that “live”? Probably most. How many of those also “live albums” include a studio recording mid-set? “Wild Boys” drops out of the sky into the middle of a concert and nobody thinks this is weird? When you can actually hear John’s bass, the songs sound better but the original version of Arena sounds like it was mixed in a soup can.)

5. (7.) Seven & the Ragged Tiger

As a kid, the build-up to the video premier of “Union Of the Snake” felt as exciting as watching the Space Shuttle launch. Lizard people in a desert. An underground society of freaks. The song and video ushered in the band’s most saturated time in popular culture. Soon after, “The Reflex” brought Duran their first US #1. As good as the singles are, the desolate “Seventh Stranger” remains the masterpiece here.

(Nile Rodgers saved this album by fixing “The Reflex”. There are three songs in the middle of the album that I have always confused. As I try to hear them in my head, “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement” is the one I like best and the one that isn’t about dice is the one I like least (at a loss for what it is called right now and I listened to this cassette every day for a year when it came out). This album is inconsistent and the band sounds stressed that the fans might catch on.)

6. (4.) Notorious 

I wasn’t ready for it when it arrived but this and Big Thing really stand-out in the band’s career. The band really fought themselves out of a corner with Notorious and established themselves as musicians, not teenage heart throbs. The musical talent was always there but the band sounds more focused and precise.

(Notorious was when Duran Duran stopped trying to be James Bond and took a deeper interest in the relationships of our beloved 007. “Skin Trade” is as sexy as Duran has ever been. Even with Andy gone, the guitars are still keeping Mr. Rhodes’ more pretentious proclivities in balance yielding a mature and confident Duran Duran. Song for song, there is a consistent quality to the album where every song serves a purpose.)

7. (3.) All You Need Is Now

Without a doubt, my favorite Duran album post-80s. Mark Ronson keeps it simple by focusing on what works best. They might not be hits in a commercial sense but fans of a band know when a song is a “hit”. The title track and “Girl Panic!” were top-shelf singles in any decade. An unfair criticism but the fact that we don’t listen to albums on repeat day after day anymore probably makes this slightly under-appreciated by me. 

(Slightly under-appreciated?! Song for song, this belongs in their top three. The artwork, the analogue synths, the stellar guitar work of Dom Brown, and an arsenal of hooks makes this an unforgettable Duran Duran album. What is harder than following up a massive debut album with an even bigger one that conquers the world? Recording an album two decades later that holds its own with the first two.)

8. (6.) Medazzaland

Mid-period Duran Duran without a Taylor was a little uncertain but Medazzaland remains an experimental delight. The video for “Electric Barbarella” might stir debate but the song sounds futuristic and kitsch. They even erupt like Tesla on the chorus of “Who Do You Think You Are?”. A few anonymous tracks drift-by but the album never loses its grip on you. 

(Not releasing it in the UK was a tragedy. The UK audience would have appreciated the cold electronics. While not exactly Bowie’s Low, the band’s experiment pays off with a strong collection of songs. Warren colors between the lines when he needs to and enhances Nick’s digital landscapes. Best experienced as a whole, Medazzaland sounds like a place we should visit.)

9. (11.) Red Carpet Massacre

The follow-up to Reportage (apparently), suffers from a case of uncertainty but there are some genuinely killer dance tracks on here. Hearing “Tempted” live sent me back to this album and I found more than I remembered. Simon’s voice on “Box full o’ Honey” sounds exquisite, for one. “Dirty Great Monster” sounds like a lost Cheap Trick gem and “Last Man Standing” is the sort of album track that can carry an album beyond the singles. 

(Parting ways with Andy should have ignited a spark of swagger from the band but they sound content to the let the high-priced producers do the driving. Timberlake really brings little to the party besides being popular at the time. He is a once-in-a-generation talent but the collaboration was stale. Chasing a more “authentic” club sound only reminds us how important Roger Taylor on real drums is to the Duran Duran formula.)

10. (8.) Liberty

Unfairly maligned for some misteps like “Hothead”, there is some really great material on Liberty. Every critic said the lead single was a terrible choice but I actually dig “Violence”. The second side of the album definitely loses some focus but the first half proves worthy of frequent listens and “My Antartica” is nothing short of beautiful. 

(The modern-pop of “Serious” and the fierce “First Impression” showcase a band considering future paths. At the time, it was easy to call this indecision but I think it was borne from curiosity the more I listen to the album. The myth that Wedding Album “saved” the band implies that Liberty was a catastrophe. Nothing is further from the truth.)

11. (12.) Wedding Album

The first time I heard “Ordinary World”, I was crossing the railroad tracks near Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, FL. I remember it that vividly. Duran Duran was back! Three classic singles and some interesting filler made for a respectable but overrated album. 

(No matter how successful “Ordinary World” was to the band, it still doesn’t sound like a classic Duran Duran song. While the liquid grace of “Come Undone” and the attitude of “Too Much Information” were dynamite, the rest of the album is far less coherent than Liberty.)

12. (9.) Astronaut

Andy Taylor’s guitar tone has a unique frequency that just soothes my soul. His style is a breath of fresh air after Warren’s antics on the fretboard (and in the bedroom). Even if there was only the reunion tour, it was worth it but the band took the time to deliver new material that often reminds you of their best work while not quite getting there.

(I would have liked to see them hit the studio after a reunion tour while the juices were flowing but “What Happens Tomorrow” and “Nice” will always make my Duran playlist. Rest of it is somewhat forgettable but I enjoy it when I listen to it.)

13. (10.) Paper Gods

Living in Vegas, you build up an instant distain for anything that smells like EDM. So, “Last Night In the City” will always be an album killer for me. The ballads lack the necessary hooks and the best songs from this period were relegated to b-side status. Paper Gods took too long to record and there were too many cooks in the kitchen. 

(Not nearly as bad as I think. “Sunset Garage” could almost slip into a Motown playlist while “Danceophobia” is a legendary band having a laugh. The bold title song shows confidence at the front of the album and the band sounds ready to keep the party going for at least another decade.)

14. (13.) Thank You

What they should have covered.

(The critics were savages when this came out but the production is quite good. “Perfect Day” is full of grace and “White Lines” captures the paranoia of the original. Still, it could have been much better than it is. )

15. (15.) Pop Trash

This was mostly trash.

(Yep.)

New Duran Math

By Bart Van Bemmel


Math is the most universal language in the world.  It’s all around us.  It binds all living things together.  Even Duran Duran uses math….

On their recent Paper Gods Tour, Duran Duran went on record saying they use the mathematical formula of 3:1 for their set lists — for every three classics you get a new song.  But what if who ever runs Duran’s numbers didn’t take in account that their past two albums All You Need is Now and Paper Gods were going to be so magical that they created NEW CLASSICS?  Imagine that — a band that’s still around after almost forty years is still creating powerful and vibrant new music?  This modern material just can’t be locked away forever with no holdovers on future tours.  Not ONE song from All You Need is Now was held over on the Paper Gods Tour and I’m still not over it.  Fine, I’ll hold a grudge!  After all, it’s their fault they did this to me (and others).  And this is pretty much what inspired this blog post.  With a new album in the works and a prospective tour to follow, I’m here to show you why Duran’s set list “math” could be the way it is and why their common core needs to change.

Maybe I need to get all Stuart Smalley on Duran and give them my own daily affirmation: You’re good enough, you’re smart enoughand dog gone it — people like you.  But I understand why you are the way you are.  And I understand how you arrived at your 3:1 song ratio.  Some “Duranies” aren’t very forgiving when it comes to your band.  Often times they can be brutal — especially each time you to push yourselves, push boundaries, and be forwarding thinking with your music.  God forbid if your new album doesn’t sound just like Seven and the Ragged Tiger part two there will be hell to pay.  I often wonder if some in this fan base cripple your band with their own limitations.  It’s as if other artists and bands out there are allowed to grow up, but not you — NOT DURAN.  It’s as if some fans have fastened one of those retractable dog leash collars that they put on their kids in the mall around your neck.  You will NOT wander off, Simon!  Now add in the music media into the mix.  Are they any different?  When Bon Jovi re-invented themselves with the countrified sing-a-long, “Who Says You Can’t Come Home” and then soon after 2007’s Lost Highway album, it landed them their first ever release to debut on number one on Billboard.  But if DURAN were to ever be so bold to be something different (by all means I’m not saying country music here) — we will stand there — arms crossed, until you play one of your greatest hits.  

I get the whole Fab Five world domination effect you had, but we’re still here… and you’re still affecting us — 100 million albums sold later (ah — more numbers for you).  And I’m NOT sorry to say, but it’s highly unlikely that most casual Duran fans have been shelling out the dollars to fly from all around the world just to see you on your latest mini run of back-to-back sold out shows in New Orleans, Vegas, and others, just to hear you play the Reflex.  We aren’t the casual fans.  We’re the die-hards.  WE sold out those shows.  And we love all that YOU are — especially your “new” stuff.  

With that said, you have created NEW CLASSICS!  NEW MASTERPIECES beyond the greatest hits!  You have even said in an interview that the song What are the Chances from Paper Gods is the best ballad you’ve written since 1993’s Ordinary World.  That’s a pretty bold statement.  But, we’re here to tell you that we agree with you.  But what now?  Does this song fade away into Duran obscurity?  We can’t let this happen. 

So here’s my list of (4) NEW DURAN CLASSICS that should be considered and intermixed for future tours:

1. All You Need is Now (AYNIN)

2. The Man Who Stole a Leopard (AYNIN)

3. Pressure Off (Paper Gods)

4. What are the Chances? (Paper Gods)

Maybe factoring in “new” classics into the live-set ratio would create some kind of New Duran Math that could potentially throw this universe alone into some tailspin (see what I did there?).  But if any band was going to invent a new formula for rock and roll, Duran Duran would be the band to do it.  

I’m curious to see what you — the fans, think some of Duran’s new classics are in your comments!