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The Duke Spirit - Cuts Across The Land


Review: Jack Foley

LONDON five-piece, The Duke Spirit, proudly consider themselves to be born outsiders.

Inspired by the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab, as well as the deep '60s soul of Irma Thomas and Sam Cooke, the band claim to offer people 'a refuge from that whole Blur revival thing that seems to be going on at the moment'.

Hence, their debut album, Cuts Across The Land, is a dark and frequently malevolent record that has quickly drawn comparisons with the likes of PJ Harvey and Patti Smith.

Fronted by the raw vocals of lead singer, Liela Moss, and the gutsy, scuffed guitars of Luke Ford, the album is a jagged vision of rock 'n' roll in its purest form.

Yet while the decision to move away from Britpop (or even post-punk) is admirable, the album occasionally struggles to emerge from the shadows of other, better acts in the genre.

PJ Harvey's Uh Huh Her and The Kills' No Wow do pretty much the same thing far better, although fans of both those albums will probably welcome The Duke Spirit's offering with few complaints.

With this in mind, there are some really good moments, such as the hurtful lament of Darling, You're Mean, which screams of the anguish of a failed relationship, or the sprawling beauty of Hello To The Floor, which features some great guitar riffs and a haunting set of vocals.

It's the type of track you could listen to on repeat play, while considering its insightful lyrics.

Bottom Of The Sea is another track that feels rife with heartbreak, while Lovetones finds Moss' vocals at their most strung-out.

Former single, Love Is An Unfamiliar Name, is another example of how good The Duke Spirit can be when they get it right, but sadly the rest of the album cannot maintain such a consistency of quality.

It occasionally feels a little too foreboding and depressed for its own good, while it's nowhere near as important as it aspires to be.

Having taken a year to create, the album occasionally feels like it may have had a troubled history (despite the presence of Flood (U2, Depeche Mode) on producing duties.

As such, it's a fragmented listen. Great in places, but a little too ordinary at others. A mixed bag, then.

Editor's note: For all Duke Spirit fans, the band are releasing a free rarities album with the first 10,000 copies of Cuts Across The Land.

It's called Souvenirs, and features the following tracks: Scratching Around (demo); So Good To Hear (demo); Patients (demo); Wooden Heart (demo); The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (demo); Hello To The Floor (Radio 1 Lamacq Live Session track); Lion Rip (Virgin Razorcuts Session Track); Cuts Across The Land (XFM Session Track); Win Your Love (Virgin Razorcuts Session Track); Dark Is Light Enough (XFM Session Track). All tracks except Patients are previously unreleased, and The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter is a collaboration with Duke Spirit pals, The Archie Bronson Outfit.

Click here to buy!

 

Track listing:
1. Cuts Across The Land
2. Stubborn Stitches
3. Darling You're Mean
4. Win Your Love
5. Hello To The Floor
6. Bottom Of The Sea
7. Fades The Sun
8. You Were Born Inside My Heart
9. Lion Rip
10. Lovetones
11. Love Is An Unfamiliar Name
12. Red Weather
13. Dark Is Light Enough (UK Bonus Track)

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