CD REVIEW: Duke Fame - Regrets
By Ashley Petkovski - 08/18/2002 - 05:29 PM EDT
Artist: Band: Duke Fame
Regrets is a road trip record with soul. From the second that the title track from Duke Fame’s debut record picks up, it becomes all about you, the hot sun, the cool wind, your brand new convertible, your best friends, miles of empty highway, and, no doubt, a trunk full of beer. Incredibly catchy, tight and brimming with fire-ball energy, Duke Fame’s powerful guitar-work, pounding, driving rhythm section, and completely irresistible ba-ba-backup vocals make Regrets an unassuming, unaffected sonic experience. Although the mood does darken on tracks like “Hunger” and the album’s standout track “Sad But Beatiful,” the genuine enthusiasm, energy and excitement of a new band, seemingly not jaded, cynical, or ‘radio-fied’, comes through on every track on the record.
As with so many current North American alternative rock records, Regrets doesn’t drag on. It comes on strong from the beginning, and drives forward during each one of its 43 minutes. With most tracks clocking in at around four minutes, they musically possess the spirit of the Twin Cities Triple-Threat - Soul Asylum, Husker Dü and The Replacements – the last of which serve as the band’s biggest influence. Coming from a collaborative scene of punk and DIY alternative, Duke Fame proudly display their influences on this record. Although claiming that their punk influence goes unrecognized within their music, the lead guitar twists and turns, adding continuous flow and an occasional counterpart to the solid melody, very much in tune with the “formulas” of early punk. Personally, I hear everything from Johnny Thunders/The New York Dolls to early Stranglers.
Regrets, however, holds a lyrical depth not typically found in modern alternative music. Primarily written by Steve Tockerman (guitar, vocals) and Eric Zweig (vocals, guitar), Regrets showcases a little soul within a set of solid pop sensibilities. The main theme seems to extend into that crazy world of relationships, something that can kill off any potential for lyrical decency. Be they “man/woman” or “man in room analyzing self to point of insanity” Duke Fame handles their recorded relationships with class and intelligence. Undoubtedly the gift of good songwriting is also what gives Regrets its wonderfully memorable melodies. Lyrics like “I am a house on fire/I am a vicious liar/Is there truth in me?/Can I find what I can’t see?” (Sad But Beautiful) and “All things are beautiful in their own light/I keep my thoughts pure and simple in the dark of the night/Most days mean nothing to me/Most days are incomplete” (Most Days) pull everything together, proving Duke Fame’s ability to give their music some heart.
The only thing that holds down the record from rock ‘n’ roll perfection is consistency… a little too much consistency. At times, the more upbeat songs tend to have very similar structures, without a lot of variation in terms of small details (i.e. little guitar lines and drum fills). It’s not distracting enough, or boring enough, to sound like one 30 minute song with several movements, like Dream Theatre for example, nor is it entirely unavoidable.
In the end, Atlanta’s Duke Fame (named for one of Spinal Tap's bondage favouring opening acts) are solid songwriters and solid musicians with, you guessed it, a solid record. They could’ve been a ‘road-rocking, opening act at the outdoor festival’ kind of band, but instead have taken a basic power-pop structure and added a rarely seen level of intelligence and DIY integrity into their music and lyrics. A record with the depth, passion and talent possessed by Regrets is a rarity for a new band, and a record that’ll take over that ever-elusive reserved space in my CD player… at least for now.
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