Album Reviews

Duels – The Bright Lights And What I Should Have Learned

(Nude/V2) UK release date: 10 July 2006

It should be illegal to make debut albums as accomplished as this, even when you’re incredible live and hail from Leeds, where everything is indeed brilliant if Duels are anything to go by.

Duels are, quite simply, everything you could hope for from a pop group. And they are pop rather than rock, even though they can rock out when they want to, because their tunes are too damn catchy to be classed as anything else. Listen to the tub-thumping Potential Futures with its stomping beat fellow Yorkshiremen Kaiser Chiefs would be proud of, followed by the mellower, almost Blur-like melody of The Monsters Are Loose.

It’s no accident that singer Jonathan ‘Jon F’ Foulger, helped by brother Jim on guitar and cousin Katherine on keyboards are turning so many heads across the country – and already planning on hawking their wares around the festival circuit in the UK and beyond this summer. They’ve got a hell of a lot to offer, covering Brit-pop, darker Doors-era psychedelia and modern power pop in the space of a few short tracks.

Demon guitars on songs from The Monsters Are Loose to Young Believers are typical – they drawn on musical influences as diverse yet complementary as Magazine, John Cale and David Bowie, sounding as if they’re borrowing from all but stealing from none.

They try New York art-house punk on Animal, touching on vocal tricks seldom heard in these parts since Adam And The Ants hitched a lift on the New Romantic bandwagon, adding in Gary Numan keyboards and a healthy dose of attitude on the side. It’s fabulous, and is followed by What We Did Wrong (nothing guys – absolutely nothing) whose soaring vocal range and sing-along chords do everything to convince you that Duels are one of the best new bands around.

By now I feel like I’m gushing, hoping that a duff track will come along any second to dump them unceremoniously on their catchy hooks, but of course it isn’t going to. They’re far too good for that. Far too skilled. Young Believers could be a modern day You Really Got Me (close your eyes and listen to that intro) and suddenly you realise that their real stroke of genius is the way they’re leading us on a tour through the best of Britain’s musical history, taking their cue from the seminal music of the last four decades, piecing together The Kinks, The Ramones, Bowie, Blur and The Kaisers in equal measure and producing something genuinely original from the sum of their parts.

By Once in the Night and Taxi Song come along, there’s little left to say. Virtually any one of the tracks on this album could hold its own as a single and at the same time they hang together well as an album, full and rich and brimming over with gems waiting to be discovered. Catch them live, catch them on record – either way, they’re brilliant.

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Duels – The Bright Lights And What I Should Have Learned