by David Chiu
Duran Duran has been on a creative roll in the last few years since All You Need Is Now, and that is certainly evident on its latest album Paper Gods. Its music recalls the familiar hallmarks of the classic Duran Duran sound (think the debut album, Rio and Notorious fused together as one)– and yet simultaneously the group doesn’t fall back on its past laurels. For fans of Duran’s dancier side, there’s several exuberant dazzling tracks that finds the band embracing elements of EDM/HI-NRG, like on the celebratory “Last Night in the City” (featuring a duet with Kieza) “Danceophobia” (with a voice-over by Lindsay Lohan—you read right), the optimistic “Face for Today” and the sleek “Change in the Skyline.” Other tracks collectively sound like Chic-worthy follow-ups to the great Notorious album – then again, the new album was co-produced by the great Nile Rodgers – especially the catchy funk number “Pressure Off” (featuring Janelle Monae and Rodgers), “Only in Dreams,” and “Butterfly Girl.” And there are also the very contemplative tracks like the dark “You Kill Me With Silence” that is eerily reminiscent of “The Chauffeur” at times; the majestic ballad “What Are the Chances?” (it has soaring guitar by former Red Hot Chill Peppers guitarist John Frusciante), and the hauntingly beautiful “The Universe Alone” that closes the record. There are a few surprises on the record, too both on the sonic and lyrical level: like the bubbly “Sunset Garage,” which recalls ’60s Motown pop, and the hard-hitting title song (featuring Mr. Hudson) that finds the band addressing the state of our society. The performances by the band members still remain top notch—Nick Rhodes’ keyboards have always provided that crucial part of Duran’s sonic template; John Taylor and Roger Taylor make up the solid rhythm section; and Simon Le Bon’s delivers some really affecting vocals , especially on “You Kill Me With Silence” and “What Are the Chances?” It would have seem hard to top All You Need Is Now, which was then was the strongest band album to date at the time of its release, but Paper Gods has risen to the challenge. Simply put, the new record finds the band still sounding vital and fresh—not bad for a career heading towards 40 years.