Tag Archives: The Universe Alone

Where Forever and Yesterday Collide

Where forever and yesterday collide…

I think those words, which I am borrowing from my friend @BoysMakeNoise, sum up the emotion of this day.

Today, we commemorate 9/11.  I had a friend lose a daughter that day, not a single Patriot’s Day goes by without my thinking about Lisa Frost or her family. I don’t take the date or the memory lightly, nor does anyone else I know, whether they are here in the LA area or in the east. My thoughts are with those who lost friends and family that day. We will never be the same, we will never forget, but we are learning how to go on.

September 11th has also become a day to remember something else in addition to the day our lives changed forever. We were given a cause to smile, if not quite celebrate. Paper Gods was released on this date in 2015.

My feelings about Paper Gods has almost certainly evolved over time. This single album is responsible for teaching me so much about myself, I am forever indebted. When I think back on where I sat three years ago, I assuredly see and feel personal growth. It wasn’t that I sat in a chair, hit “play” and felt an epiphany. If only.

No, when I first heard the entire album, I was aghast with some of the choices. I can’t say I fell in love immediately. In fact, I struggled. Rather than keeping quiet about it, I shared my tug-o-war. Probably not the smartest blogging decision I’ve ever made. People I deeply respect and very much care about had put their blood, sweat, tears into the making of the album, and yet I panned a major portion of it.

I still carry a fair amount of guilt about that. When I say I’ve learned from those mistakes, believe it. I sat with friends I admire and look up to, and did a lot of listening and soul-searching. I own my feelings about the album, but I wish that I had given myself more time to fully digest it all. Blogging for eight years has been a constant challenge and source of education for me, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’m definitely not the same person I was in 2010, and I have this blog to thank for much of that growth and adaptation.

Paper Gods isn’t an easy album. It is deep and complex, possibly in reflection of the band’s career. I sense the struggle in writing and recording it, and even the moments of anxiety and despair mixed with joy and satisfaction. It took me an incredibly long time to find my own way with Paper Gods. Great music can be that way, and I didn’t account for any of that when I gave it a knee jerk review. The pressure to be first outweighed the concern for being right or fair, which ended up being altogether wrong – at least for me. I’ll never do it again, that is for sure.

People tease me occasionally about my review of “You Kill Me With Silence”, a song that took me months to come to terms with. I loved the verse, but it was the chorus that bothered me. I liked the painstakingly slow and torturous melodic structure, but the chorus felt so bright and almost happy, it made me mad. It took me months to realize that the music perfectly described an emotionally abusive relationship, just as did the words. When that light bulb finally turned on for me, I embraced the song on a deeply personal level.

I also grappled with “The Universe Alone”.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the song. It is likely one of the most brilliant pieces of music the band has ever written. At the time though, I felt like the song was carrying me into a whirlpool, threatening to take me down into an emotional abyss I wanted no part. I may have taken the meaning of the song far too literally. If it was to be Duran’s end, I wasn’t going down quietly. Silly? Probably. I just wasn’t ready to even think about the end. But you know, in the three years since first hearing the song, I have a different understanding. For the band, each “last song on the album” is really kind of the end. It’s a new world on the other side, and this band never knows where they’re going next. Do any of us?  How will I feel when it really IS the end?  I’ll grieve and feel like there can’t possibly be a tomorrow, but the sun will defiantly come up again anyway. It always does, and we will all have to learn how to go on.

Then there’s “Danceophobia”. I have found reason to smile and even laugh with this one. Doesn’t it make good sense it was included on Paper Gods? On an album filled with seriously deep and complex feelings that appropriately seem to cover the entirety of their career up to this point, shouldn’t laughter and silliness be one of them?

I still have Paper Gods in my car, three years later. It is an album that I almost always play from start to finish, and I let myself listen and be carried by the current through all of the sentiments the music evokes. Lately, it has been exactly the therapy I’ve craved. The idea that it can sit side by side with their debut album, Rio, and even All You Need is Now and completely hold its own is worth celebrating.

On a lighter note, I think about all of the fun I had while the band toured this album. I can’t help but be filled with gratitude. Once again, the band was the backdrop for some of the best moments of my life. I can hardly wait to do it all again…and then some. I miss Amanda, Lori and Suzie terribly.  I can’t wait to watch Nick laugh at us, share knowing grins with Simon, maybe even scream for Dom. (Maybe??!) I look forward to seeing friends again and meeting new ones. The band might not be ready just yet, and we may have quite a while to go, but I’ll be ready when the time comes. Will you?

-R

Paper Gods – Which Is Your Favorite?

As I continue to kind of sort out my final thoughts on all things Paper Gods, I’ve been thinking about the album itself.  This album took a while to grow on me.  Amanda and I spoke about it on the way home from San Francisco, and she surmised that this was a ‘thinking person’s’ album.

I think she’s right about that. In my case, it wasn’t an album that reached out and grabbed me, but instead it kind of sat bubbling in my head, percolating away. For what seemed like months, I’d listen to the album on repeat in the car, and then I’d put it away for a bit. Then I’d pull it back out, and listen to it again on repeat. I would think about the lyrics, the meaning, the possible story, and the music itself.

There were a few things about the album that just didn’t sit well with me. I struggled with the idea that Dom was barely on it, for instance. Yeah, I’m loyal. I know he’s not an “official band member”.  Whatever. He’s been with them for so long, it sure feels like he’s official. It bugged me. I wasn’t totally in love with the feel of the album at first, either. It felt very electronic in parts, and oddly un-Duran Duran like in others. I kept listening. I did not want a repeat of Red Carpet Massacre – an album that I never really enjoyed – so I kept at it, trying to bond.

Somewhere along the line, I must have done just that. The songs no longer sound foreign to me. They no longer feel too electronic, or not DD “enough”.  I don’t even think about who played or wrote what song. They feel just right. Even so, I have favorite songs on every single Duran Duran album. I think we all must have tunes we enjoy more than others, and this one is no different. I also think that looking back on this tour has kind of given new meaning to at least a few of the songs I once struggled with.

When I think of Paper Gods though, a few songs come to mind: Pressure Off, Last Night in the City, and What are the Chances. I am certain this is because the band played all of them on tour, and so they come to mind easily. I also think about The Universe Alone, Planet Roaring, and Cinderella Ride. It’s kind of hard to pick a favorite from that list, but in the end it is purely sentiment that drives me.

While I know he didn’t write it, there’s no arguing that Dom owns the guitar solo in What are the Chances when he plays it live. He took something that wasn’t really his and made it so, and the album version is every bit as beautiful, of course. I feel just a teensy bit guilty that I had to remind myself on the way home from San Francisco that John Frusciante actually wrote the guitar part – I’d gotten so used to Dom doing it that I’d forgotten.  I’m not normally a ballad person, but on this album it’s the two ballads (What are the Chances and Cinderella Ride) that I love hearing most when I’m at home.  The words for both ring very close to home for me in completely different ways – which is something I can say for 99% of the album. The lyrics really hit me.

There is a lot to like on this album, and since it’s release, I’ve fallen in love with much of it. It may not have been an album that knocked me over upon first listen, but it is definitely one that made me think, reconsider, and ultimately embrace. It’s been a great ride.

-R