Steeped in 70’s punk and 80’s new wave, the new album from London Punk Rockers The Duel is a glorious nostalgic trip and modern interpretation of all that made original UK punk the reason some found music as something more than just for the ear. The band and their third album All Aboard The Crazy Train ripple with reminders and influences of an array of essential bands turning them into their own stirring sound. There is a wealth of ‘punk’ bands around now but there are not many that proudly hark back to a time that set so much in motion like The Duel who use it as fuel for their own vibrant and honest music. For an album that song by song has essences of so many from the past the release is one of the freshest and encouraging this year.
The Duel began in 2001, a duo of vocalist Tara Rex and keyboardist / bassist Andy Theirum. Finding their feet and sound before expanding the line-up the band’s first gig was supporting the Dead Kennedys. Since then they have played with the legendary might of the likes of UK Subs, The Slits, Buzzcocks, Sham 69, The Vibrators, and Angelic Upstarts to name just a few. Their first two albums, the 2007 debut Let’s Finish What We Started and its 2009 follow-up Childish Behavior took them into a bigger and wider national spotlight fan and media wise and now with the release of All Aboard The Crazy Train through FFR UK on 28th November, the anticipation of further strong acclaim is surely to be realized.
Though soaked in a marinade of old school punk/new wave The Duel have fused it into their own electro/cyber punk/rock pot of sounds combining instinctively bold vibrant riffs, direct and sharp attacks and vocals with melodic and resourceful hooks and synth/keyboard weaves. Combined it makes for songs that are inventive, easily accessible and pulsating. Each track carry the true punk ethos of challenging boundaries and being oneself, loaded in self expression and DIY truth it is an example and reminder to all current punk bands about the real meaning of what they claim to be.
The title track opens up All Aboard The Crazy Train to immediately lay down what the band is all about. The track bristles with a firm drum beat from Pumpy, whilst the keyboards of Thierum soar nonchalantly throughout the song. The vocals from Tara Rez coated in effect, ring with a deliberate disdain adding to the tracks moody feel. Though a mid pace stroll it sneaks up and by its end one realizes it has its hooks deep inside and has taken over the ear, that is until the energetic and slightly discordant punk attack of ‘Singing N Dancing’ takes over. Pulsating with the bass of Chris McDougall and a rock guitar ending from Thanos Oscar Pap it plays like an X-Ray Spex/P.I.L. merger and Rez herself sounding like the vocal offspring of John Lydon and Siouxsie Sioux.
The following songs all play and satisfy immensely like the Horrorpops/The Creepshow sounding ‘Empty Highway’ and the emotive and in many ways surprising ‘Loneliness’. When the big bass thumping and vibrant pop punk of ‘I’m On To You’ takes the stage though things go up a level and continues until the end of the album. Addictive and bouncy with again a Horrorpops feel, it enthusiastically entices and beckons with its blatant hook and melodies. The ska vibed Clash like ‘Freeway’ with Rez sounding a little like Penetration’s Pauline Murray, the Generation X punk ease within ‘Blaze Of Fury’, and the TV Smith/ Adverts flavoured ‘We The People’ with a mesmeric pulse beat ,all feed the senses eagerly and wonderfully.
The album contains 16 great songs and those mentioned and not, all deliver and please with equal quality, the album is a joy but two tracks have to be mentioned. Firstly ‘Not Found Behind A Gun’, a song that hungrily and openly displays its fine attributes to reel in the heart. Its sound is very Psychedelic Furs and Rez herself seemingly takes on some of Richard Butler’s vocal style, a wonderful track that despite its skill is eclipsed by the best song on the album ‘The Way London Used To Be’. A pulsating union of The Clash, Ruts and Transplants, it rings with a hypnotic hook and bass stomp alongside the keys of Thierum which dance engagingly. The song builds into a big sounding and pumped climax; with its anthemic hand and social commentary it epitomizes the band and their fine sound.
All Aboard The Crazy Train is simply excellent and the more one hears the more one sinks into its glory and bathes in its simple magnificence. As the penultimate track declares “Get ready for the sounds of liberation…” that is just what The Duel and their album bring.