Stomping, uncompromised, gritty, guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll has been off the radar for quite some time, muscled out by the post-punk-influenced bands crowding the forefront of the guitar-band community these days. The Duke Spirit may change that. The London-based five-piece has the Velvets’ decibels and insidiousness, My Bloody Valentine’s crunchy power, and a singer (Leila Moss) who is the blonde incarnate of Patti Smith, complete with poetic lyrics, attitude and a sultry voice.
Moss’s voice doesn’t get lost in the Duke Spirit’s well-sculpted fray of the fuzzy guitars and feedback. Instead, her thick, almost husky vocals slide in and around the music, like a lover’s tongue poking between your teeth and lips. She’s a caged tiger; clawing at the bars to get at the man she has an insatiable love for, even if he’s all wrong for her.
“Red Weather” is the Duke Spirit at its finest, a sweltering, sexual wall of noise that builds and builds. Moss vocally writhes “like a wild animal growls,” and you can feel her “crawl across the floor,” clawing for that elusive lover. The frustration of not being able to get what you can’t have is totally mirrored in the song, which falls apart on itself at the end in a thrashing, sweaty coda. Even the album’s quieter moments are full of longing and skin-crawling tension and dirty sex. On “Bottom of the Sea,” Moss is going to the ends of the earth for that elusive lover. “Lovetones” is a swaying departure from the band’s fuzzy sound, rocking loosely to give way to a devastatingly heart-stopping chord change at the bridge. “Love Is an Unfamiliar Name” sees the Spirit evoking ’60s surf and Bond soundtracks, with a great sing-along at the end that had me wanting to throw on my best Mod gear.
On each song, Moss’s twisted vocals are reflected with the aching and squalling guitars, bass and drums executed by Luke Ford (what a great rock ‘n’ roll name), Olly Betts, Toby Butler (who bears a striking resemblance to Pete Townshend) and Dan Higgins. They’ve got an amazing musical connection between them, and it’s evident on this tight, pulsating, thumping record. I’m excited by this noise too.
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