With the cover art for Paper Gods, Duran Duran cheekily revisit icons of their past: the smile of Rio, the cap of the "Chauffeur," girls on film, and a prowling tiger. Thirty years in, Duran Duran are comfortable enough to play with their past, comfortable enough to draw an explicit connection to their back pages by hiring Nile Rodgers -- who helmed Notorious back in the day -- to do a bit of production alongside Mark Ronson, the hitmaker who gave the group a refurbishment on 2010's All You Need Is Now. Most of the record, however, bears credits either by Mr. Hudson or Josh Blair, two younger musicians who help give Paper Gods a bit of a contemporary glint. While there are nods at the '80s and even the '90s arriving in the form of samples, synthesizers, and power ballads, Paper Gods is an aggressively modern album, living in the oversaturated world where emojis and gifs battle in perpetual motion. Whenever Duran Duran seem slick and savvy -- i.e, when they bring Janelle Monáe in to play with Rodgers on "Pressure Off" -- they manage to undercut their hipster overture with either crass commerciality or something flat-out tasteless, like when Lindsay Lohan drops in to growl through "Danceophobia." The thing is, Paper Gods works better because it has space for these sides of Duran Duran, moments where they seem like the coolest band to bear a synth and the dorkiest to ever chase a club trend. Most of the album exists somewhere between these two extremes, gathering steam with the giddy neo-disco of "Change the Skyline" and benefiting from moody assists from ex-Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante (he brings the closer "The Universe Alone" to an apocalyptic crescendo), but it's that tension between the good and the bad, the yin and yang of Duran Duran, that makes Paper Gods absorbing.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine