By Brian Ives
It’s good to be in a legendary band for several reasons. You no longer need to find your fan base. You can play large venues, regardless of trends. Your songs get played on the radio, no matter what. The reason for all of the above is because, to be a legendary band, you have to have an incredible catalog of music.
And therein lies the rub; as the years go on, it’s more and more difficult to come up with new albums that hold up to that legacy. And that’s something that was on the collective mind of Duran Duran as they worked on their latest release, Paper Gods.
“We were talking the other day about artists that have been around for a long time – our contemporaries and some older ones, and there’s only a handful of the latter now, still out there playing shows,” says keyboardist Nick Rhodes. “And we were saying, ‘What albums did they make this far down the line that we own?’ And that was a difficult one.”
From Duran Duran’s beginnings, they embraced a duality: they wanted to combine th Sex Pistols and Chic. And bassist John Taylor, Paper Gods embodies both sides of the band; they were careful not to veer too far in the pop direction. “In the original blueprint for the band, there was this dark, slightly progressive side to us, and it tended to get a little bit trampled on by the poptastic aspect. In that desire for pop satisfaction, you can forget what you set out to do. The new record really goes back to that strange early Duran mix: the hard-edged pop, coexisting with this dark, weird, experimental side.”
Rhodes agrees: “That’s something that’s essential to all of us,” agrees Nick. “It’s great to be able to lift people’s spirits – and your own – with a strong shot of pure pop, but the world we live in isn’t all just made of that stuff, so it seems natural to me, and has done since the very beginning, that we have kept, and still keep, one foot in the darker, more Gothic side of life.”
Speaking of Chic, their most frequent collaborator through their career, Chic‘s Nile Rodgers, returned to work with them on this album. And while his influence represents DD’s pop side, he encouraged them to stay weird, as he told Radio.com in a recent interview: “I’m so proud of them: from their begininngs to where they’ve come to now. Their earliest stuff was amazing: ‘Girls on Film,’ ‘Rio,’ those were fabulous records. But now, there’s a maturity that I was trying to bring out of them when I did the song ‘Wild Boys.’ I was very conscious and aware of the fact that they had sort of this ‘pretty boy’ image and they were the MTV band, and I knew what they were capable of, given the right direction. There’s no Duran Duran record that sounds like ‘Wild Boys,’ this was a real departure. And we did unbelievably well with it. So I thought, ‘Once they feel this vibe, and this kind of excitement from this semi-avantgarde record, now we’re in the Bowie neighborhood.’ And when you hear their new record, you’re gonna say, ‘They finally got it!’ It’s very semi-underground… until that hook kicks in.”