sabato 20 febbraio 2010

Patrick Duff "Luxury Problems"

Nel suo lavoro solista Patrick lascia poco spazio ai ricordi o ai rimandi al suono degli Strangelove, ne nasce così un disco sincero, dove si mette in gioco anche musicalmente e, a mio avviso, si perde in più di un punto, ma, come dire, a lui riesco a perdonare tutto! (2005 Harvest)

Patrick Duff was the lead singer and songwriter in Strangelove. I never cared for Strangelove, they always seemed like a adolescent Bad Seeds in search of a Nick Cave. Patrick's songs and mannerisms borrowed from more talented others and the band never got close to transcending their influences. They were a ballet of indie rock moves lacking centre or soul.
I hoped that a period of time in the musical wilderness, six years plus in fact since Strangelove's last LP, may have stained his muse and twisted his psyche into producing something that screamed from the speakers. Music that had Patrick's stamp on it, that was original, seething and bleeding. I hoped in vain.
From the trite observations of the opening Married With Kids, it's clear that Patrick seems to have nothing new to say and no new way of saying it. The Xeroxed Rolling Stones lite backing is much closer to the Dandy Warhols' Bohemian Like You than the gritty, debauched originals. The lyrics are spitefully lacking empathy and insight, like Martin Amis' cruel and clichéd characterisations of the working class.
There are a clutch of tracks that are loosely blues based, My Junkie Clothes, Early Morning Birds, DJ Yoga and Refrigerator. These songs stick to a basic formula: that of a repeated riff, either on an electric or acoustic guitars, and barked vocals. The vocals are so mannered in places that they come across like a Shakespearian ham reciting the lyrics to a Nick Cave B-side.
I understand that Patrick is a keen student of the blues but these songs fail to gel. Where the White Stripes or Jon Spencer can conjure musical alchemy from base metal, unfortunately here we are left with just a third hand history lesson. Elephant Bills' attempt to relocate the blues into modern day Bristol fails miserably. It's so bad that it could be a joke but I don't think it is.
There is one pearl amongst the swine. Mother Nature's Refugee is a gentle swoon. Duff's voice is unadorned and tender. Backed by little more than his acoustic guitar and the barest of drums brushes he connects. It's a beautiful moment. It's a pity that there just aren't anymore of them on this record.
Burn Mother Nature's Refugee and forget the rest. (Tony Heywood -

Patrick Duff first made an impact in the 1990s with the West Country’s finest innovative twisted indie band Strangelove. They created three albums of real dark majesty; and even allegedly influenced a young Radiohead who once supported them. Songwriter and vocalist Patrick Duff developed a reputation as a performer of extreme intensity and spontaneity. Since the break up of Strangelove, Patrick was accused at times losing his way (the aborted Moon project is one such example) taking seven years to finally allow the songs to flow that would make up his debut solo offering “Luxury Problems.”
Despite all of the time that’s passed, Luxury Problems is a minor triumph, an emotional, individual, and idiosyncratic record that not only looks back on the past with a wry eye but looks at the present in a humorous, personal and twisted way. This album is not without it’s songs that misfire, but what it does have is a beating heart, and a thirst for diversity and musical exploration. The album was recorded in the West Country over the last two years with an impressive list of collaborators including Alex Lee (ex-Strangelove, Suede) and Adrian Utley (Portishead), together with a hand-picked group of musicians including guitarist Mike Mooney and drummer Damon Reece.
Opener ‘Married with Kids’ resembles a Lou Reed influenced west country rocker and contains a myriad of clever images and words creating a world of kitchen sink drama, and screwed up people: “Six hours later he's going to work/She's crashed out on the bed wearing only a smirk/ She was Adolf Hitler/He was Eva Braun/Screwed up in the bunker with the gas turned on".
Second track ‘Mirror Man’ is a 60’s tinged psychedelic riot, while the Dylan-ish beat of ‘Junkies Clothes’ replete with harmonica handclaps, acoustic strum and a bag full of worries is a pleasure. There are problems here though; some of the songs don’t quite work for me. ‘Early Morning Birds’ is a surreal poetic mess until the Monty Python-esque lyrics of “here comes another day over the hill with big black boots on” raise a smile, while ‘Elephant Bill’ is so lyrically clumsy a character song, that I wonder if it’s a joke - for example a line like “Shares a Needle with Jimmy Saville/Coz he’s bad” in the words of McEnroe “cant be serious”. But this is why people love Patrick. He is an eccentric songwriter who produces songs that hint at genius and madness in equal measure.
It’s in the quieter moments that Duff really excels; as he always has. ‘F*cked’ is a gorgeously melancholic ballad that echo’s the best moments of Strangelove’s more sedate offerings and ‘The King of the Underworld’ is a twisted, introspective, chiming, medieval folk song, while album closer ‘The Lion and the hawthorn tree’ is such a preciously delicate song it could bring a grown man to tears.
This is album is a curious beast. Its good moments are fabulous, its bad moments are jarring, but Patrick Duff is nothing if not a deeply individual songwriter and the impact of these songs will be felt given time to grow with fans. Maybe eventually they will embrace his first solo album, the way they fell in love with Strangelove. Maybe there’s still a place for Patrick Duff in our hearts. (Bill Cummings -

- Married With Kids
- Mirror Man
- Fucked
- In My Junkie Clothes
- Song To America
- Early Morning Birds
- DJ Yoga
- King Of The Underworld
- Refrigerator
- Mother Nature's Refugee
- Elephant Bill
- The Lion And The Hawthorne Tree


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