Duke Spirit Lands on ‘Neptune’

The Duke Spirit is just one of many English imports to try out the other side of the pond. England had its share of success in the States, from the Arctic Monkeys putting on its dancing shoes to Oasis singing about gibberish like wonder walls. However the Duke Spirit has a different take on rock music, one that proves refreshing to those looking for more than a quick fix.
On its sophomore effort, “Neptune,” there are a handful of influences that become apparent. From 1990s grunge to riot-girl punk, the lively quintet is like a throwback that maintains originality to keep one’s attention. The new LP is constantly in-your-face, filled with polished chords and bouncy melodies.
“I Do Believe” is monotonous and choir-like in the beginning like the calm before the storm. This minute-long opening morsel sounds like it came straight out of a Sunday Mass.
The second song never hesitates and starts off fast. Piano chords drive the song, beating fast and heavy. The guitars are noisy and Liela Moss’s vocals leave a sense of urgency that she frequently revisits. “The Step and the Walk” comes up next and has a certain swagger to it. The band has a penchant to have oohs and ahs, and this is no exception. Before the track starts dragging, a thumping drum beat lifts it up, and ensemble vocals close it on a very high note.
From the tension on the first couple of tracks, Moss takes a page from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O on how to pull off a proper brooder.
For instance, “Dog Roses” takes cues from the delicate moments of “Show Your Bones,” and it’s no wonder these two performed together.
“Into the Fold” captures the group’s grunge roots. From messy interludes to fast distorted octaves to Moss pushing her voice until she can get nothing more out of it, this song is yet another highlight on this climactic record. “This Ship Was Built to Last” is another raw track, with a hypnotic ascending chorus.
“Wooden Heart” is one of the more fragile songs the group created. Moss vulnerably sings, “I would understand your heart / if I could feel it.” After all that melancholy, the next song quickly revs up again.
From downtrodden to angsty, “You Really Wake Up the Love In Me” takes off. There is some redundancy before closing appropriately with a noisy coda. In what proves to be a more schizophrenic batch in the album, these tracks move from sad to aggressive to cheery in about ten minutes. “My Sunken Treasure” is as bubbly as it’ll get.
“Lassoo” feels a bit lost, but is salvaged by the constant guitar freak outs. “Neptune’s Call” proves to be another gem, embodying the entire record. Fast, catchy, filled with fun vocals and pounding guitars. “Sovereign” closes on a strong note, trudged along by slow guitar chords. While there’s a reckless feel throughout this collection, songs like this remind the listener that these British kids are definitely more than a one-trick pony.
There are bound to be endless comparisons between the Duke Spirit and its contemporaries. Its ’90s revivalist notion is similar to that of the Silversun Pickups, the band has an aggressive female vocalist that compares to Sleater-Kinney and its slick noisy guitars are reminiscent of a handful of grunge and noise groups.
But really, with so much in its arsenal, this band definitely deserves its due for being a well-oiled rock machine.