Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: The Duke Spirit, Neptune

The one thing to keep in mind when listening to The Duke Spirit is that they’re a band.  A very good one now, possibly a great one in the future.  Their first album, Cuts Across the Land, showed promise which has Neptunebeen redeemed and then some on Neptune.  There are five people in the band who all play various instruments.  Their main instruments are bass (Toby Butler), guitars (Luke Ford and Daniel Higgins), drums (Olly Betts) and voice (Liela Moss).  Butler, Higgins, Betts and Moss play keyboards; Butler, Higgins, Ford and Moss write.  They’re a band, a unit, with one potential problem.  Moss.

Leila Moss is the kind of singer that reviewers, fans, and most dangerously, record company suits slaver over.  Her voice is throaty, by turns languid and driving, arresting.  Although she doesn’t sound anything like Grace Slick she has the same compelling presence Slick had before she turned into a drunken embarassment.  Moss sounds like you’d fuck up everything you had if you could just have her.  She sounds dangerous.   

Most bands would kill for a singer like this, so why is it a problem for The Duke Spirit?  The band is like a dish created by a world class chef.  At first bite you are struck by one domiinating and delicious taste.  However as you continue to enjoy the meal you realize that the main flavor alone isn’t what makes it taste so good.  It’s the combination of flavors complementing each other and working together that leaves you wanting more.  Moss is the taste, The Duke Spirit is the dish.  The problem is that the attention Moss attracts will lead suits who can count but can’t hear to whisper in her ear that she would be better off without The Duke Spirit.  She could be star, they could make her a star, just her.  The Leila Moss show.

If you want to worship the performer, this might be a good thing.  If you want the music, it would be a terrible mistake.  As an integrated unit The Duke Spirit work uncommonly well and Neptune is a remarkably accomplished second album.  Their songwriting skills have grown noticeably since their first album.  They haven’t fallen into the trap of turning themselves into a support band for Moss but instead have developed arrangements in which her voice is used in both supporting and leading roles.  They make use of a varied instrumental palette.  Unlike many bands, they are equally accomplished with ballads and uptempo numbers.  And, bottom line, they rock.

Neptune has been in our rotation for a long time.  I’ll listen to it a time or three, it’ll drop back down to the bottom of the pile, I’ll pull it out again . . . .  Weeks have gone by like this and I’m just not getting tired of it.  As good as Neptune is, it sounds like The Duke Spirit has more in them.  If they can ignore what people like me have to say about Moss, tune out the suits, and keep their focus on their music, they have the potential to be the kind of band that shapes our perception of musical boundaries and our memory of how great music was back in the day when they were at their peak.


06/12/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] open for some of R.E.M.’s shows this summer and they’re scheduled to play a set before Duke Spirit this Saturday, June 28, at Glastonbury – what I wouldn’t give to be able to fly to the UK for […]

    Pingback by Review: Modern Skirts, Catalogue of Generous Men « Tuned In To Music | 06/26/2008 | Reply

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