DiS has been listening to Duke Raoul for three years now, and it’s an odd thing to say but the first time this writer heard Bloc Party on the radio, she actually thought it was these guys - post-hardcore mixed with intricate funk and all directed by Robert Smith on vocals. Stylistically this demo varies from one song to the next – it’s subtly danceable, with beautiful harmonies one moment and hammering rhythms the next. Listening to Duke Raoul is like watching those wine tasters on TV. “Hmmm yes I detect a delicate aroma of punk…and the sweet aftertaste of jazz”…or something like that.
This band has achieved something that many musicians struggle to throughout their careers. This is music that indie purists would not be ashamed to have in their CD collection, and yet could easily be found on a daytime radio play list. Opener ‘Aesthetics’ is a highlight, with crunchy guitars, and drums that have leapt straight out of Bloodsugarsexmagik, but thankfully not accompanied by lyrics of boasted sexual prowess. It’s the punkier tracks such as this, where Duke Raoul really come in to their own, and it would be nice to hear more of this raw side to the band. Even so, ‘Slumber’ is a striking combination of sparse guitars, harmonics and delicate melodies, reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, combined with sensual female French spoken word a la Serge Gainsbourg.
Duke Raoul have found themselves in a difficult position. Having already relocated from Liverpool to Manchester in the hope of finding a more receptive audience it’s difficult to make their music heard above the sound of the ever-multiplying Scallydelica and Baggy revivalists. One thing is clear though – the North country needs this band, even if they don’t know it yet. Like all exciting musicians, Duke Raoul are taking risks by doing something a little different. Let’s just hope it pays off.