It’s safe to say nobody ever expected Duran Duran to endure this long — not even Duran Duran. But the original New Romantics are back with a vengeance. Their excellent new LP, Paper Gods, lives up their their classic sex-synths-and-mascara legacy. All four remain as criminally charismatic ever: singer Simon Le Bon, keyboard guru Nick Rhodes, drummer Roger Taylor and the ladies’ choice, bass stud John Taylor. And as they prove at an August 2nd warm-up show in Port Chester, New York, they’re in fierce shape onstage. “Last night we were witness to some truly appalling behavior,” Simon tells the crowd of frenzied ladies. “We hope to see it again.” And they do — even when they debut the futuristic new electro-funk jam “Pressure Off” between two of their juiciest hits, “Notorious” and “Planet Earth,” the crowd doesn’t even pause for breath. Simon dedicates “Girl Panic” to Nick: “He’s very fond of a pretty girl, isn’t he?”
If Paper Gods were a debut from some upstart band, the buzz would be insane — yet this is the latest from a group that’s been reinventing itself for more than 30 years. The album features longtime comrades Mark Ronson and Nile Rodgers, as well as a stellar new cast: Janelle Monae, Mr. Hudson, Mew’s Jonas Bjerre, long-lost ex–Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. And that foxy voice in “Dancephobia”? She turns out to be Lindsay Lohan.
As John Taylor says in his essential 2012 memoir, In The Pleasure Groove, DD always wanted to combine Chic and the Sex Pistols, and they still have that spirit. As he says now, “There’s a bonus track called ‘Planet Roaring’ that [Sex Pistol] Steve Jones plays on. So we’re quite pleased we got Steve Jones and Nile Rodgers on the same record — that’s huge for us.” Finally — Duran Duran’s own theory of everything. The band met up in a posh NYC suite to discuss music, girls, art, car design, escaping the Eighties, Andy Warhol and Taylor Swift’s new-wave cred.
Congratulations—not many bands make a fourteenth album.
Le Bon: That’s true. What do you call those horses, not the favorites — the ones with the really long odds? In the Eighties, you could have gotten really long odds on us making it through. If you were betting on bands that might make a 14th album? We would not have been in the top ten.
Roger Taylor: Everything changes. The London paper just did a story reporting how we now drink herbal tea instead of having sex with supermodels and snorting lines of cocaine. But it was eleven o’clock in the morning.
Le Bon: Well, that wouldn’t have stopped me back then.
There’s such a wild mix of musical styles on Paper Gods.
Rhodes: The schizophrenia is getting worse. A lot of artists get into a comfort zone. They know what works. For us, that’s the least comfortable zone, the comfort zone. We like to torture ourselves a little bit.