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Patrick Duff - Luxury Problems

Review: Jack Foley

FOR the eagle-eyed among you, Patrick Duff is hitherto best known for being the singer and main songwriter for innovative rock band, Strangelove, in the 1990s.

His solo work embodies many of the same traits - songs of eloquence and humour that are delivered with heartfelt intensity.

Luxury Problems takes things one step further, however, by emerging as Duff's most personal work to date, having been inspired by Duff's past and present, and his observations on the wonder and beauty of life.

The album that results is a bit of a mixed listen. Occasionally both provocative and poignant, it can also be a little unsatisfying and too self congratulatory.

At its best, Luxury Problems has that rare ability to make you think while serving up strong musical compositions that draw in a lot of instrumentation.

Song To America, for instance, is an emotive track, which slow-builds quite pleasantly in acoustic fashion while delivering thought-provoking lyrics such as 'he's not committing suicide in America, but America's committing suicide in him'.

But as if to prove the point, it is followed by Early Morning Birds and its incessant chorus of 'big black boots on', which feels like someone's just walked in on a jamming session.

It's the type of track that easily provokes the suspicion that Duff is a little too prone to becoming artistically pretentious in the same way that Rufus Wainwright and Radiohead can alienate as many people as they appeal to.

Yet the inspirations seem to be many and varied, from the classic folk-rock style of Bob Dylan, to more contemporary icons such as Beck.

Regrettably, the album as a whole could do with a little more excitement, frequently delving into the darker side of observation on life and frequently sounding depressing.

The dreary DJ Yoga, for instance, is rife with lyrics such as 'my baby left me for a vinyl scratcher', but ends up sounding too much like a hard-bitten blues anthem, rather than a track that makes the most of its ironic wit.

The same can be said for the sprawling King of the Underworld - another well-written track that could do with an injection of pace.

Refrigerator, meanwhile, left me feeling as cold as the contents Duff was inviting me to see.

That said, there are some moments to savour - Mother Nature's Refugee is an acoustic ballad of genuine worth, while Fucked is another slow-builder that unfolds into a terrific listen.

And album opener, Married With Children, gets things off in lively enough fashion.

It's just that Luxury Problems, on the whole, doesn't contain enough of those moments to captivate the listener enough.

Album player (listen to 30sec clips)

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Track listing:
1. Married With Kids
2. Mirror Man
3. Fucked
4. In My Junkie Clothes
5. Song to America
6. Early Morning Birds
7. DJ Yoga
8. King of the Underworld
9. Refrigerator
10. Mother Nature's Refugee
11. Elephant Bill
12. The Lion and the Hawthorne Tree

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