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Review: 'DUELS'

-  Label: 'Download, then This Is Fake DIY Records'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: 'February 14 2008'-  Catalogue No: 'TIFD0011'

Our Rating:
Jim and Jon Foulger, Katherine Botterill, drummer James Kirkbright and bassist Jon Maher have been in and out of celebrity-land for several years now. Their debut album "The Bright Lights & What I Should Have Learned" (oh the irony!) came out in early 2006 on Nude Records and a couple of well-received singles taken from it lead to major label acquisition.

But storms and calms and cock-ups in the turbulent mainstream tore their ship off course and out of favour. Given such a battering, DUELS would have had to produce something extraordinary to regain the praise and attention they soaked up on the first foray. Had to.

And they have done. They have done.

The confident charm, the finely rolled tunes, the rich textures and knowing pop authority - all still there. But on this time out, they have the sharp teeth, the guts, and the fierce devilment to make the album they really wanted and that we deserve.

Swirls of DAVID BOWIE, NICK CAVE, and SYD BARRETT are still there. There are quotes: my favourite is Ruby Tuesday's "Yesterday don’t matter if it’s gone" (in "The Healing") from the Jagger and Richards song book. There are echoes and resonances from Lennon and McCartney, from PINK FLOYD and even SCOTT WALKER from the quality end of the first wave of Brit Pop. But there is no getting away from the fact that the message is entirely DUELS and that their new sound is exciting and unique.

It is lavish, varied, and (always) on the edge of menace. This is not an angry record - this is a record made from the confidence of nowhere left to go and no one left to please. It sounds like the band went flat out to please themselves, and it's a triumph. It captures a mood and offers something deep and satisfying that is simply not available in any other contemporary band. The excitement is palpable.

Within twenty seconds of "The Furies" opening the album three recurrent motifs burst into life: the drumming is dark and huge, the guitar has plenty of anvil and hammer and there is a remarkable feral yelp in a backing vocal that chills blood. This is a commanding way to grab, and keep attention.

Picking out strongest and weakest songs is a mugs game. Whichever song is on has me lost in memory, anxiety , yearning and desperate hope. The album-closing sequence of "Forgotten Babies", "The First Time/The Last Time" (a contender for track of the year) and "The Barbarians Move In" is outstanding in range, inventiveness and emotional strength.

"The Barbarians Move In" is digitally released via the band's website on February 14th, 2008 and will be physically released on This Is Fake DIY Records in the spring. I'm fairly sure they will be no other albums like this year.

  author: Sam Saunders

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READERS COMMENTS    6 comments still available (max 10)    [Click here to add your own comments]

I have been a lurking fan of W+H for a while now and I checked this out on your recommendation , I'm afraid I wasn't impressed and this drew me out of the shadows.

Perhaps it would have been a big hit in the 90s but it doesn't lift itself above 4th and 5th records of that generation, let alone a 2nd of this one. Partly the production is to blame (horrible, horrible drum sound) as most of the record is a little close and over cooked. A song like The Healing for example, left well alone and not soaked in layers, could've been a Cold Wa...shortened comments

------------- Author: JamesXR   14 February 2008

Cold War Kids single. The rest of the record smacks of a passive agressive self-consciousness that I find highly unattractive (does he need an inhaler? Or is that an attempt at husky sincerity). These guys have written good pop songs on their last record, are they afraid of being communicative?

I know these lads are local so I'm not trying to step on any toes but a 9/10 review seems so far off the mark I couldnt help but disagree.

------------- Author: JamesXR   14 February 2008

I think that's all fair comment - exactly what the comment option is for! I think we both heard the same record, and both noticed similar things - but responded in different ways. Thanks for taking the time to object and for arguing your case so well.
------------- Author: samsaunders   14 February 2008

thank you! Obviously we won't all like the same thing, but equally I find it unhelpful when people write short reactionary comments without explaining their opinions (like just writing "rubbish"). Glad I could get my point across, thanks sam.
------------- Author: JamesXR   15 February 2008