Duran Duran, “Paper Gods”
Duran Duran have had an enigmatic career—the first song on their first album, “Girls on Film” was great enough to grant them instant celebrity. They followed that mega-hit debut album with Rio, and ensured their status as ’80s new wave royalty. Yet behind the fey accoutrements and multi-million dollar videos, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, and assorted Taylors were hard-scrabble Birmingham roustabouts, and much more punk than the silk outfits suggested.
Paper Gods is being heralded as a new chapter in the group’s history. Boasting contributions from a cavalcade of bold-faced collaborators including Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson, Janelle Monáe, John Frusciante, and others, it’s a project that comes with pre-existing expectations. Alas, those expectations are not met in the slightest. Le Bon reaches for the cheap seats as usual, but the group’s attempts to move into the new century feel forced. Each pandering track is overwhelmed by an overriding nostalgia for the group’s former glory. “Pressure Off” is basically “Notorious,” past crowd pleasers “The Wild Boys” and “GoF” are referenced throughout, and closer “The Universe Alone” reminds us what a great guitar riff “Rio” has. A for effort, but we already have Rio.