Review: Duran Duran, Yet Again, With ‘Paper Gods’

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“Paper Gods”

(Warner Bros.)

Nostalgia is fleeting, but it is renewable, and every few years, Duran Duran returns to remind a new set of people of a sound that, buried deep within, they love.

“Paper Gods,” the 14th Duran Duran album, and first since 2011, brims with the signature louche funk that made this group a paragon of early 1980s sleek excess. Simon Le Bon is still a fragrant, sleepy singer whose default vocal approach is the come-on.

But on “Paper Gods,” he’s newly cynical about the things that used to turn this band on. The title song, about the hollowness of beauty, almost feels like a rebuke to “Rio.” “Butterfly Girl” promisingly begins like classic Duran Duran: “By the look on your face, you’ve been awake all night.” But then Mr. Le Bon becomes a scolding elder: “I still hope you’re gonna realize/There’s only one kind of happy in that glass of wine.”

It’s a bait and switch, especially because that song features Nile Rodgers of Chic, fresh off lending his humanity to Daft Punk. It’s bulbous, throbbing disco, ecstatic and free, recalling the band’s 1980s peak, in sound if not in sentiment. That’s better than the pair of songs, “What Are The Chances? and “The Universe Alone,” which recall an earlier stab at maturity, the soporific 1992 hit “Ordinary World.”

Largely, though, Duran Duran chooses its collaborators wisely here, opting for some from that golden age, like Mr. Rodgers, or those who’ve internalized that era’s balance of sleaze and good cheer, like Mark Ronson — who helped with the group’s last album, “All You Need Is Now” — a producer of “Pressure Off,” a blend of hard-slap funk and dreamy new wave that features Mr. Rodgers and Janelle Monáe.

So long as Mr. Le Bon is oozing atop brisk arrangements like this, the specifics of the words don’t much matter. Everyone here has the posture down cold. It’s not nostalgia if you never stopped. JON CARAMANICA

Courtesy The New York Times