The last winner: Paper Gods
Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Planet Earth or Pressure Off?
The last winner: Paper Gods
Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Planet Earth or Pressure Off?
The last winner: Only in Dreams
Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Ordinary World or Paper Gods?
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
(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.
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 enough, and 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!
The other day we posted Jason’s blog about how the track list for Paper Gods is all wrong, in his opinion. As I read it, I found myself shaking my head. While I appreciate that he didn’t like some of the tracks as much as others or that he felt the order was not quite right, I believe strongly that the track list is as it should be. (You can read his original post here.) Now, he was coming at the question from a purely musical standpoint and used previous albums as his guide. I get all that but I tend to look at the Paper Gods album very differently. As Rhonda and I have hinted or stated on here before, we believe that the album is about their career. If that is the case, the order of the songs might be essential and might not fit the traditional method that Duran typically uses. (The same is true for Red Carpet Massacre’s track list being a story but that it the topic for another blog.)
The song, Paper Gods, is a perfect opener to let listeners know or remember about how too much of the public and most critics see/saw Duran Duran. They see them as “paper thin”. Back in the 1980s, they were so easily dismissed as being nothing because of the fact that girls liked them and had posters of them on their walls.
I don’t know about the rest of you but this song screams touring to me and I think it does for the band, too. All you have to do is check out a verse like, “I’ve been traveling around now, big world with my brothers, always moving’ to a new town, no time to put the roots down, We can’t stop believing, can’t stop, now we believe in you, Coz when you’re standing in the spotlight, the only thing that matters is tonight.” This track is essential and certainly describes their early years of touring, staying up all night, etc.
This one might be harder to place in the band’s career context but it describes someone who keeps in a relationship despite criticism. Couldn’t that all be about Duran Duran with the rock critics? I vote yes.
This track is similar to Last Night in the City in that it could be about live shows since there are lyrics like, “searchlight the crowd.” Could it be about how Duran could let go of all the pressure to be acceptable to the media when they played live? Again, that makes sense to me.
This song’s lyrics lead me to think it is about the band’s acceptance of fame. “You can fight it or invite it.” Couldn’t that it be fame? Then, the idea of “hold on to your time boy,” could be a reference to recognizing that the fame thing might not, probably won’t last forever.
Could this be a song about how they needed to be reminded not to take it all so seriously, especially as the early 80s became the late 80s? Could it be a reminder just to enjoy the music and the dance even if people might judge them? Maybe even that they should be themselves, musically? That it is okay to make dance music?
To me, this is the part of the album that represents the time in which Duran Duran has fallen off the top 40 charts and away from the media spotlight. Fame has ceased to be as all-consuming as it once was. Now, they are looking to change the direction they seem to be heading. “I’m just trying to change my luck.” Part of this process includes remembering to appreciate each other and what they do have, especially since they really lucked out in finding each other in the first place.
Despite this effort to change the direction that they seem to be headed, it isn’t working much. So, they need to remind themselves that it will be okay. “Whatever happens we’re OK – hey we’re still alive.” They reassure each other that they can make it on their own, without the support of record labels, the media, etc. “..if it all goes wrong we’re gonna make it on our own.” I feel like these lyrics represent Duran’s ability to keep going despite the obstacles.
By the time the late 1990s roll around, the band members seem to realize that a change needed to be made. They seemed to be realize that it was “time to change the skyline”. This meant that they will have to watch the current version of Duran fade (the Simon, Nick and Warren version) if it means a new one can be born (current line-up), “An empire in a day, Built on hope and burnt by the sun, But I’m happy to watch it fade, What I can raise it up again.”
While the band recognizes that they need to “change the skyline”, they also need to come to grips with where their heads are at. John Taylor is the classic example here as he fought hard to overcome addictions, which I’m reminded of in the lyric, “There’s only one kind of happy in that glass of wine.” I also think of Simon who, from everything I read, was unable to really write a lot of lyrics for Pop Trash. He was in a lyrical hole just like the Butterfly Girl, so to speak.
This song always makes me think of the reunion and of our fan community. Wasn’t the reunion in our dreams for years and years and years? We also definitely don’t want to wake up if it means finding out that the reunion and the return of Duran as many of us knew them wasn’t real.
For a long time, I think Rhonda and I were convinced that this song was about the end of the line. Could this be why Duran put the album together in such a way that seemed to tell the story of their career with the Universe Alone at the very end? After all lines like, “It’s beautiful the dying sun, The end of everything and everyone” followed up with “I’ll see you in some other lifetime.” Even the very end, musically, with the choir singing left me believing it was the final curtain that was referenced in Paper Gods. Maybe it is them just preparing for the end because they did add bonus tracks, which could be a sign that they are continuing on, especially that first one.
This bonus track seems to summarize how fans still want to see and hear the band live. Maybe, this is why they are still doing what they do as opposed to saying good-bye like they could be doing.
What do the rest of you think? Could this album be about their career? In my opinion, the songs say that it is. Take a hard look at each of the lyrics and think about Duran’s career. Maybe you will see what I see. I might argue that the cover also focuses on their career. (An idea that we have covered already.)
As the curtain (finally) comes down on the Paper Gods era, we turn our attention to what lies ahead. While I saw more Duran Duran shows then ever before during the Paper Gods tour, it was more a matter of geography than passion for the new material. Their booking agent seems to have a thing for Las Vegas! While I’m not terribly sad about Paper Gods being shelved for a bit on the set lists, I did eventually realize that the album is stronger than I give it credit for.
Duran Duran, while incredibly successful in terms of hit singles, are an album band by nature. The balance of pop and art that infuses their best albums creates a journey for the listener that demands proper sequencing. The first three albums were masterclasses in how to sequence an album with a lot of hooks early and then slowly working in the moody, darker aspects of the band’s character. By the time you reached “The Chauffeur” or “The Seventh Stranger”, you had been changed by the songs that brought you there. Paper Gods never found that flow.
Maybe it is the changing ways in which people consume music. Listening to an album might be a lost art as far as a major label is concerned. Warner Brothers might have had Spotify and i-Tunes in mind when assembling Paper Gods. Or maybe it was the band? Regardless, the way Paper Gods unfolds when heard as an album has never felt right to me. Through the magic of computers, I have tried to remedy that, at least digitally. Not much can be done with the slab of wax on my turntable.
Here is one fan’s re-imagining of the album. Let’s call it Paper Gods 2.0.
1. Planet Roaring
2. Change the Skyline
3. Pressure Off
4. Valentine Stones
5. Sunset Garage
6. What Are the Chances?
7. Northern Lights
9. Cinderella RIde
10. You Kill Me With Silence
11. On Evil Beach
12. Paper Gods
I originally loved “Paper Gods” as an opener, and enjoyed it live, but the album never builds upon the themes put forth by it. As a statement of purpose, I’m all onboard especially if it’s a commentary on today’s vapid pop music. But then the album veered into that world with the screeching “Last Night In the City” which I’ve omitted from my 2.0 version. There are some brilliant remixes of it but the album version haunts me.
So, let’s open Paper Gods with “Planet Roaring”, one of the better Duran Duran anthems of the century. Seriously, how did this get relegated to a bonus track? Lyrically, it works as a welcome to the fans who have been with them since “Planet Earth”. The first five songs demand we move our feet especially the Motown-meets-Spice Girls sweetness of “Sunset Garage”. As a vinyl listener, I imagine “What Are The Chances?” ending side one, much like “My Antartica” does on Liberty.
I sense that “Danceophobia” has a lot of detractors but it is senseless fun. “Face For Today” could slide in the spot and the momentum would not be lost. After “Cinderella Ride”, the album gets a little more artsy but the more dedicated fans live for these tracks. As a closer, “Paper Gods” can be seen as a sly commentary on the mainstream critics who love to label the band as “paper thin” and all about the “head shots”. Four decades into their career, the band have proven to be more than just paper gods and, with a little tinkering around on the sequencing, Paper Gods ultimately proves another successful chapter in their evolution.
There are days, and then there are days. Today is the latter. I’ve spent my morning neck deep in the throes of webhosting madness, and now I am rewarded with a new Katy Kafe!
Roger was still in LA for one more day before traveling home, and found time for a chat with Katy to fill us all in on the DD happenings over the summer.
They just finished the mini tour and KAABOO Festival in Del Mar (just north of San Diego). Roger said he loves touring the west, making note of our constant sunny days and the positive energy he felt from all of the audiences. He and Katy also made note of the audience in Tahoe, saying that they were surprised by the amount of people who came out to see the show, saying that it felt more like a festival. They moved Wild Boys to the encore that night and ended up doing four songs for what he thinks may have been the first time.
Roger commented that he was happy to get “Anyone Out There” back out, along with “Astronaut”, and mentioned how lucky they were to do the NASA gig, too. He ended by saying how it “gets to a point in life where you’re really happy to still be in the room”, referring to the hundreds of other bands out there who were just as talented, but for some reason didn’t go the distance.
While in LA, Roger found time to attend a charity show benefitting Above Ground, an organization committed to working with musicians with varying types of mental illness including depression. The show featured many artists, including Billy Idol, whom Roger met that night for the second time.
The first meeting took place many years ago after Billy and his band Generation X played at Barbarella’s in Birmingham. Roger told a story about how he’d gone to see them play (they were his favorite band at the time), and they were booed offstage! During that time in Birmingham, punk was still very much on the scene, and Generation X had begun to slide a bit more mainstream – which did not go over with the crowd. Roger met Billy and had him sign his Generation X album, which remains the only album Roger has ever gotten signed.
When Roger met Billy in Los Angeles, he shared the memory of the show at Barbarella’s, and Billy remembered. I loved the anecdote, simply because it is endearing to hear of my own biggest idol meeting his idol. The only difference is that I’m still shy enough to where if I ran into Roger, I’m not sure what I’d say!
I know everyone chomps at the bit to hear news of what may be on the horizon. I’m happy to say that Roger was pretty forthcoming! He didn’t even need much prodding, and said that they are pretty well advanced on the album, citing Erol Alkan’s influence as producer, “He has given us a good boot up the backside!” Katy asked if there would be other producers on the album, and Roger said they worked a little with Mark (Ronson), and that there has been talk of Giorgio Moroder…but the bulk of the album would be completed with Erol Alkan.
The greatest news is that they’re hoping to have the album out by SPRING…which is amazing. Roger said that they had really only gotten back into the swing of things this past year, which means they’ve worked at a pretty decent speed.
Katy spoke of how it has been five years in between Paper Gods and this one (assuming it is released in 2020). I took pause at that. Has it really been that long?? I suppose so. I know that Amanda and I have tried to talk about just about anything but the album they’re working on – figuring that it will happen when the band is ready. Meanwhile, I guess we’ve all been busy!
Paper Gods was released in 2015, but as Roger explained – they toured the album extensively for a couple of years. So while it will be five years in between albums, it doesn’t seem like it has been that long to me. I would also say that having the band break up that time with the occasional run of shows has also helped!
That brought the discussion around to why they haven’t toured in many of the places fans wanted. **Please note the disclaimer here. Do not shoot the messenger. **
If the band was able to tour so much with Paper Gods, why is it they focused on so few regions of the world?
Roger was very clear, explaining that “in America in particular, people do not forget [them] and show the love.” They are able to fill arenas, no matter how long the span of time has been from show to show. Katy continued, saying that she feels bad because she receives emails from fans wondering why the band doesn’t go other places. She says they don’t understand that while “they, and their friends…and even their friends friends will go see them, that just isn’t enough to fill an arena.”
In order to make touring in many places of the world economically viable, they don’t just need to fill an arena once, either. They need to be able to fill more than one, multiple times. Otherwise, the cost to ship and rent equipment along with transportation, housing, food, etc etc means that essentially, the band would be paying to tour, which wouldn’t work for long.
Katy asked Roger if they’d do a Vegas Residency. In my head, they’ve just done one – having played the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan six times over the past 18 months or so. That seems like enough, doesn’t it? Roger paused, and said that it would have to be something very cool, mentioning the show, Love, the Michael Jackson show, Cirque du Soleil and even Elton John. He mused over how it would be to stay in Vegas for any length of time, suggesting that it is not the same as LA or New York, and he doesn’t know if he’d like that. Katy suggested living in LA and then commuting to Vegas for weekends. While I don’t think a residency is really on their radar, it didn’t sound to me as though Roger was ready to write off the possibility, either. We’ll see!
Katy suggested that maybe there might be new dates prior to the release of the album, saying that maybe the East Coast would get some love this time – although they did do the NASA show in Florida. So, my East Coast people – don’t be surprised if the band suddenly pops dates and pre-sales on you before the holidays!! That’s your warning….
Until next time…
the lasting first impression is what you’re looking for – “First Impression”
The excitement of unwrapping a new cassette, CD, or vinyl record, and settling into a new listening experience retains its sense of excitement no matter how old we get. There is something magical about hearing new music from a favorite band and, often, the first three songs of the album are a strong indication of where you are headed together. The trio of songs that open U2’s The Joshua Tree and Prince’s 1999 are astoundingly good and a huge reason both are considered classic albums. Does Duran Duran have a trio on the same level? Maybe not but it made for a fun Duran Dissection project.
Duran Duran (1981)
The camera shutter of “Girls On Film” is certainly prophetic given Duran’s success in front of it on MTV and countless teen magazines. Then you get “Planet Earth”, a song that encapsulates a moment in time when all the various styles of the 1970s were coalescing into a new sound that would change the world. While “Anyone Out There” might have made it back into recent set lists because of the NASA show, it would be hard to find someone unhappy about it. Not necessarily single-worthy, “Anyone Out There” remains one of the strongest album tracks the band would ever record.
Verdict: A- (I decided to use letter grades since Amanda is a teacher and we need more heroes like her on the front lines of education)
From the dark clubs of the New Romantic movement to the world stage, the more colorful sound of “Rio” is pop perfection and succinctly captures the spirit of the 1980s. The trio gets a little shaky, however, with the album version of “My Own Way”. No matter how much I love this album, there is always a voice in the back of my head telling Roger to speed it up on this song. I much prefer the Carnival remix and the night version to the original album version but maybe that’s just me. I also prefer the longer version of “Lonely In Your Nightmare” on the remixed US version of the album. The mood and atmosphere are allowed more time to capture your imagination.
Seven & the Ragged Tiger (1983)
Nile Rodgers gets the A for his remix of “The Reflex” because the original is pretty flat overall. Given the anticipation for this record, it is a disappointing start. “New Moon On Monday” feels more fully realized but then the album loses momentum again with “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement”. While not a horrible song, it isn’t essential to the album. One of the weakest opening runs of any Duran Duran album, it might have frightened casual fans away from the magic that awaits on side two.
A statement of purpose, the title song ring in a new era of Duran Duran that feels a little chippy (at least towards a flaky bandit). Then, “American Science” sways like a palm tree in the dark. Full of sophistication, the new Duran Duran were growing up faster than some fans; including me. The sexy “Skin Trade” should have faired better as a single and rounds out a thrilling opening suite of songs. The overall mood of the album comes through on these songs and all hold their own individually.
Big Thing (1988)
I sense that the title track is a love it or hate it moment in the band’s history. In 1988, I was definitely a little hair metal kid so the punch of it instantly appealed to me. Then, the band delivers two of their finest singles. I’ll argue all day that “I Don’t Want Your Love” and “All She Wants Is” are stronger singles than “The Reflex” and “New Moon On Monday”. OK, maybe I’m stretching it, but this album was criminally ignored by the industry.
I just waxed nostalgic over Liberty here so I’ll keep this brief. The first two songs are solid introductions to a slightly uncertain time for Duran Duran. That uncertainty turns into a hot mess on “Hothead”. I’ll leave it at that.
Duran Duran (1993)
Please, please let me know. Are we officially calling this The Wedding Album now? Despite the slight hypocrisy of the lyrics in “Too Much Information”, the song practically explodes from the speakers after the timid Liberty. Where would Duran have ended up had “Ordinary World” not turned the tide on their commercial free fall? I’d rather not think too hard about that. Unfortunately, “Love Voodoo” hints at some of the uneven music that follows on The Wedding Album.
Experimental, bold, fresh. There are so many words to describe the mysterious Medazzaland album. The opening three songs are all of the above-mentioned adjectives and more. The album loses its luster the deeper you go but the opening trio lays to rest any concerns about Duran Duran bouncing back strong from the critical mess that was Thank You. It is hard to resist “Electric Barbarella” as a single. The percolating synths and guitars work well together. Its classic Duran Duran even if the video’s stab at humor fails to overcome the sexist premise.
Pop Trash (2000)
A new century of Duran Duran began with “Someone Else Not Me”, a fine song but a difficult album opener. Bordering on 60s psychedelic folk-pop, the song challenged us to open our minds to what Duran Duran could sound like. The opening guitar and drums of “Lava Lamp” could pass for a Matchbox 20 song before Nick and Simon arrive while the swirling “Playing With Uranium” manages a decent chorus. I find that I enjoy Pop Trash in a single listen so any three song run from this album leaves me indifferent.
And then they were back. “(Reach Up For the) Sunrise” has a chorus worthy of a stadium. It is contemporary but without sacrificing the values of early Duran Duran. “Want You More!” is the sort of synth-pop gold that the band used to dispense with ease. LeBon’s voice sounds particularly strong on “What Happens Tomorrow”, a mid-tempo rocker the band seems determined to put on every album since the success of “Ordinary World”. This time, it works out beautifully.
Red Carpet Massacre (2007)
Opener “The Valley” suffers from confusing production. This song should be a distant cousin to The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” but it ends up trying to be something urban and hip. The title song and “Nite-Runner” are better examples of what the band was aiming for. It might have driven Andy to Ibiza and left me dreaming of what Reportage will someday sound like but this project has grown on me.
All You Need Is Now (2010)
Such an incredible album, the band hasn’t kept any of the songs in the set list since the tour ended supporting it. I’m not bitter. Yet. The title song is the best Duran Duran single since “All She Wants Is” and introduces an album that holds its own with the band’s best work during their imperial phase. “Blame the Machines” and “Being Followed” get the adrenaline racing with the perfect balance of synths and guitars. This is Duran playing to their strengths in every respect.
Paper Gods (2015)
One of the most instantly intriguing opening tracks the band has ever done. When the instruments come in, you can hear a little of M’s “Pop Muzik” buried in the DNA of the track. It’s an instantly likable blend of the band’s pop aspirations and art-school fixations. Of all the band’s albums, this one suffers the most from the sequencing. “Last Night In the City” is the sound of a screeching car crashing into a wall with some EDM blasting through the stereo. It feels out of place after the moody opener. “You Kill Me With Silence” feels like the appropriate follow-up to “Paper Gods” and doesn’t create such a disjointed listen. I could write an entire Daily Duranie piece on restructuring Paper Gods. Maybe, I will.
I think it has taken me a full 36 hours or so to completely reign in my thoughts on the show at the Kennedy Space Center. I don’t think Katy was wrong when she said the set and show would be “out of this world”. The band added “Anyone Out There”, “Astronaut” and even “Walking on the Moon” by The Police to an already fantastic set list that included a lengthy intro to “The Universe Alone”. If the ethereal, delicate beauty of drones hovering overhead didn’t send chills down your spine, then surely combining the choir and orchestra to Duran Duran’s already near-perfect sound gave you goosebumps and made your hair stand up on end. At least they did for me, and I was at home watching a pixelated stream with far-less-than-adequate audio!
That evening began with a series of clicking links that didn’t work for me. I didn’t even think I’d be able to see video, but then Studio Drift streamed their drone performance. Granted, they only showed their pertinent portion of the evening, and after that I was desperate. I’d tune in to one stream only to find it wasn’t working properly, then try another. There might be sound, but no video…or vice-versa. Where could I see more? Thankfully, social media never disappoints! Duranies in the know were pointing everyone else in the proper directions. I was sent a link to another kind soul who decided to live stream the entire gig. I was thrilled, even with her apology that there might only be sound because the view from where she was standing wasn’t that great (her words). I couldn’t have cared less, I was overjoyed to be able to even see a tiny bit of the show – and I had no trouble hearing what the band was playing, even if the quality wasn’t perfect. That certainly didn’t stop me from tweeting in awe over what was happening in Florida.
For me, that was the best part of the evening – even from home. Of course the show was stunning! I loved seeing the overall view of the rockets, the stage, and the crowd, combined with the music I know and love. Simon really made the show special by talking about the astronauts and the space program. The ambience was just about perfect from my seat. What topped it all off, was that even here at home as I sat by myself in a barstool at my kitchen island, I wasn’t alone. My friends and I tweeted back and forth. Amanda and I texted. There was laughter, and yes – even giggly joy. You can’t really beat that! I mean, if I can be here at home, about 5,000 miles from the gig itself, and still feel like I’m amongst friends in the audience, that’s what it’s all about.
I’m still a little stunned, or in awe…or something like that. I’m not one to sit down and watch video after video clip from a show. I have friends who have sent me videos from concerts I’ve attended over the years (and a lot I have not), and while I might watch a clip or two, I don’t spend a lot of time doing it. normally. Since the KSC show on Wednesday, I’ve SCOURED the internet, looking for any and all videos I can find, particularly of The Universe Alone – a song that I have had a love/I’m-really-afraid sort of relationship with since it came out. That changed on Wednesday.
Here’s a link to some amazing footage. I can’t stop watching it. I might need help.
I will never again listen to “The Universe Alone” without thinking of those gorgeous drones in the sky. It was like watching the stars, or a sea of fireflies, dancing in the heavens. I loved it, and hearing Simon’s voice – perfect and clear – singing the verses to “The Universe Alone” nearly brought tears to my eyes right along with all the chills I’ve come to appreciate in response to an outstanding performance. I know there’s some outstanding, multi-camera video footage out there, and I know I’m not alone when I cheer loudly in hopes of a video of the full performance to be released!
Seeing the show that night made me all the more excited for what is to come – and I don’t just mean the September shows.
(Although, I would like to reiterate the formal request I made on Twitter that Duran Duran put “Anyone Out There” in the setlist for the September shows and beyond. Pleasethankyougoodbye).
It makes ya kind of wonder when we might hear new music from the band, doesn’t it?
It does me too….which is why I nearly fell out of my chair when I read a recent article published on Playlist, a magazine website from Mexico. The short piece is in Spanish, which remains the one language I read pretty well outside of English (speaking it is another story. Conjugating verbs on the fly is not one of my gifts…) But even so, I thought I was misreading things, so I sent it through good old google translate. Turns out, I wasn’t.
According to the article, the band already has a song in mind as a lead single. Lead what?!? Here’s the translation for those who want the short “executive” version of the full article: “So far, there is a song that is the main one to be the first single. It’s so different from anything you’ve heard from us before, or really from anyone else. There is a dancing element. The construction, the melodic content, the lyrics, some of the sounds … are very different for us”
I’ll give you a minute to absorb that. Meanwhile, here’s the link, read it yourself:
Anybody else have the feeling that this band has been working on the album more than they’ve kind of let on??? I honestly thought they must still be at the stage where they’re just jamming in the studio every few weeks, hoping for something to gel.
(ok, I was going to write “months” in that sentence, but that seemed too negative. Typing “weeks” seemed more optimistic and hopeful!)
This kind of talk regarding singles makes me wonder if I’m just going to wake up one morning and the band is going to be like “Surprise, we’ve released our new album and we’re going on tour starting tomorrow!! Pre-sales started at midnight and you’re already too LATE!!”
New album – ok.
Tour – that’s fine….I guess? I mean, it just seems a bit rushed!
Presales starting without notice….while I’m sleeping?? That’s stuff right out of my nightmares. Some might say that this is the obvious next step for a band who likes to give less than 48 hours notice for presales.
I also have to wonder if this story about singles is even true. Not that I think Nick told a big fat fib, but that perhaps the magazine misquoted him. I mean, it’s the only place I’ve seen anything mentioned about actually having songs written! Can it really be?
If it’s true, then I’m still thinking about the description. I’m not surprised it sounds nothing like anything they’ve done before. After all – this is not a band that likes to revisit. It’s all new, all the time. I’m still shocked that they think they’ve already got the lead single. I say “already” because in my head – this album process just started! I can’t seem to wrap my brain around anything else.
I think back to pre-Paper Gods. For me, those days were torture, and I wasn’t in the band or even on their team. I was just a bystander. A blogging bystander. Every month felt like another year. (I’m exaggerating here because I have a flair for the dramatic, you see…) I wanted them to hurry, hurry, hurry, and then get back on the road so we could have more fun! This time, I’ve been pretty damn patient, I must say. I was busy. There were boxes being packed, and unpacked. I moved. I raised chickens, built a chicken coop, and apparently became a bit of a farmer. What???
I sound like I’ve retired, which I have not.
There were shows, which honestly – kept me going even during some really dark days. I couldn’t tell you how long the band has actually been working on this album because – news flash – I don’t even know! Interesting. Well-played, Nicholas… and of course the rest of you. You got me this time. I did see comments on Twitter in reaction to another interview posted somewhere, and apparently Nick said they’re shooting for late spring of 2020 for new music to be released. To be completely honest, I discounted that information.
On one hand, it *was* Nick who was giving a target release timeframe. If it had been Roger…I’d have laughed quietly and said, “add on another 12-18 months on that!” Sorry Roger…I kid, I kid!!! In all seriousness though, I read the tweets about it and thought, “Yeah, we’ll see. Late spring of next year? Yeah…..I’ll believe it when I see it!”
Not that I don’t trust this band. I do. I believe they will eventually release new music. I just suspect I’ve got all kinds of time to wait and be patient, maybe build an animal paddock, and begin raising goats and sheep along with my chickens.
I really do sound like I’m a farmer.
Have a great weekend everyone!