The Duke Spirit/Neptune

Jason Cleeton 7 February 2008

Neptune is an intelligent and assured second album from British five piece The Duke Spirit, and sees the band turn in a set of moody but accessible alt-rock tunes. The star turn here is singer Liela Moss: her soulful but unforced vocals are a pleasure throughout, and make the more stripped down moments like Wooden Heart all the more enjoyable. Her voice is also able to deliver a bit of raunchiness to proceedings: lead single The Step And The Walk sees her bring considerable presence to a vibrant chorus, over a dirty blues riff reminiscent of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds.

The scattered but sparing use of alternative instrumentation recurs throughout, and adds a welcome bit of variety. On album highlight Dog Roses the clattering drums, lone piano notes and staccato acoustic guitars are unexpectedly joined by a harmonica. The closing Sovereign is lifted immeasurably by the presence of an autoharp, washing the song in a sea of ethereal beauty.

The band certainly know how to rock, as they do on the searing Into The Fold, but despite the band’s obvious debt to the discordant likes of Sonic Youth, they show little desire to veil their melodies with noise. If there’s a complaint to be had it’s that some of the songs feel just a little too cautious to truly excite, and while nothing on the album could be classed as filler, there’s probably not that much here that you’ll remember vividly come the end of the year. However, it’s easy to imagine even some of the lesser moments on Neptune being taken up a notch when performed live, and when the band can produce a pop nugget like My Sunken Treasure, or something as undeniably pretty as Sovereign, it suggests that their strengths don’t lie solely in blustery guitar noise, and that mainstream success hopefully beckons.

Jason Cleeton