Five years on from their last studio album ‘All You Need Is Now’, Duran Duran had left fans ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ for their timeless New Romantic flavour, until now. With a musical career spanning almost four decades, this powerhouse synth-band from Birmingham, known notably for their heavy success in both the UK and the States in the 80s, have just recently put out ‘Paper Gods’. However, their first track starts not with a bang, but a whimper. ‘Paper Gods’ is a far cry from the upbeat, catchy melodies of ‘Rio’ and ‘The Reflex’, and one can’t help but notice its desperate attempt at experimentalism. In fact early interpretations of this track with its intrusive synthesiser, lengthy track time and disconnected drum-line could serve to accidentally alienate die-hard fans. However, on some well needed re-listens you discover a diamond in the rough. It’s lyrics, although painfully re-iterating, engage us with topics such as manic materialism. Lines like, “the slaver in a sweatshop putting trainers on your feet”, relay this well. Steve Le Bons vocals have also kept a similar sheen all of these years onwards, with his voice smooth as silk powering through the album.
Negotiating the sombre tone set by the album is ‘Pressure Off’ which features a delightful vocal performance by American singer Janelle Monáe and legendary guitarist Nile Rodgers. With it’s catchy hook and smooth bass-line courtesy of John Taylor, this song cements itself as the standout track of the album. It’s upbeat tempo, with Rodgers’ signature disco-esque guitar riff would allow this song to sit comfortably within the ranks of contemporary pop music. John Fruiscante of Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s fame also lends his dexterous fingers with his powerful guitar strokes in ‘What are the Chances’ which works surprisingly well in conjunction with Nick Rhodes’ soft keyboard melodies.
In short, this album illustrates Duran Duran’s ability to remain fresh and unique, whilst not straying far from their roots. It doesn’t promise to be Rio 2.0, but still re-establishes the sound the band was known for and continues to run with today.
Duran Duran are performing in Cardiff on November 30th at the Cardiff International Arena