Paper Gods may be Duran Duran’s fourteenth studio album, but it feels as fresh and inventive as their first. Indeed, the work is dominated by so much creativity and charisma that it leaves one reeling, and has the potential to convince even the bands’ most vehement detractors that they are, above all else, relentlessly talented experimenters. Not only have the group neatly sidestepped mid to late career malaise then, they have turned in a record that can proudly stand beside the very best of their work.
Paper Gods is dominated by endlessly infectious hooks – Last Night In The City’s soaring chorus represents electro-pop at its most accessible and catchy – but the band never allow proceedings to grow one-note or reductive. For every slice of 80’s inspired delirium, the album also offers a stranger, more introspective number. On the one hand, you have a track like Dancephobia or Sunset Garage – deliciously overblown works that make the excessive seem exciting, and the ridiculous profoundly relatable – and on the other you have a number like You Kill Me With Silence, a chillingly emotive work that shows off the bands’ great capacity to upset their own status quo.
Though the record has its fair share of guest spots, at no point do these ever feel perfunctory. A stunning contribution from Jonas Bjerre of Mew elevates Change The Skyline to a wholly new and ambitious level, while Janelle Monae’s vocal work on Pressure Off brings an added level of shimmer and sheen to the proceedings.
Much more than your average pop record, Paper Gods is a thrillingly diverse collection of songs by a band who seem unable to stay still. Duran Duran are a lot of things to a lot of people, and this record somehow manages to cater to all, appearing both experimental and forward thinking and yet steeped in the band’s own aural tradition. It’s a truly brilliant work.