The Bright Lights and What I Should Have Learned
The latest bright young things from the Yorkshire music scene have released their prog-tinged debut, and it ain't half bad.
The crucial thing about Duels, though, is that three fifths of the band are from the south coast, and moved up to Leeds when the flourishing scene was in its embryonic stage, and this has definitely shaped the tone of the record.
Moving to the city is a big feature of The Bright Lights… particularly on album highlight "The Slow Build" which lives up to its name by gradually moving from acoustic lament to synth-led torch song, acting as a backdrop to a deliberation on the isolation of modern, urban life, where we hear "the hum of the television talking to no-one."
That said, where Duels' greatest strength lies is in creating big, synth rockers that make you want to jump around you living room, provided no-one is watching, of course. As anyone who has witnessed their chaotic live show will testify, they are a kinetic band, as visually engaging as they are musically arresting. Jon Maher and James Kirkbright make for a teeth shatteringly robust rhythm section, and Katherine Botterill provides the electronic textures which drive so many of the tracks on the record. In Jim Foulger they have a naturally feral guitarist who, in between rolling around the floor and throwing his guitar around, produces superb crunchy riffs, and in his brother Jon, they have a singer who is so frenetic, he sounds like Henry Dartnall from The Young Knives with 400 volt electrodes attached to his nether regions, (How's about that for an image? You don't have to thank me), particularly on the uber-nervy "Animal."
While the album is an overall success, there are moments which could have easily been left off, especially the po-faced "Things", which is unfeasibly repetitive, and a bit too grandiose for its own good.
Despite the occasional blip. The Bright Lights… is a fine record, and, if they can keep it together, a stepping stone to a truly great album.