On the back of their previous impressive album alone, the new full-length from UK now wave punks The Duel has been one of the most highly anticipated releases in the genre this year and the last to be honest. Its impending arrival has sparked an almost feverish excitement and on the ‘eve ‘ of its unleashing it can be revealed that all your hopes and wishes for the band’s fifth album will have fallen short of what it magnificently uncages on the ears and passions. Consisting of nineteen mentally and physically impacting and inspiring tracks, Waging War is a glorious new and inventive adventure from a band which is no stranger to pushing itself, the listener, and punk into new potent grounds. The London quintet on the evidence of their album has quite simply found a new maturity and mouthwatering enterprise to songwriting and sound which only makes the future even more exciting.
The Duel has come a long way from that first meeting between vocalist Tara Rez and keyboardist Andy Thierum, after Tara applied to an ad in Melody Maker. From the joining up creatively and the founding of the band, The Duel has unleashed a quartet of albums which have one by one increased its stature and reputation whilst forging a status as one of the most inventive, passionate, and socially vocal emerging bands in UK punk. Debut album Let’s Finish What We Started in 2007 instantly drew strong attention which Childish Behavior two years later pushed to another level, but it was the 2011 All Aboard The Crazy Train which brought a more intensive spotlight upon the band. A year later the boldly experimental but still rigorously enthralling Soundtrack To The End Of The World (Story Of Zak Splash) revealed the eagerness to really push themselves and expectations. The acclaimed release set a new benchmark for the band whilst challenging fans to evolve with their sound, which they did with rapturous passion for the main. Waging War takes those seeds planted in its predecessor to a far loftier template for band and modern punk whilst simultaneously also embracing decades of punk and its origins. The result is an album which is as addictive and infectious as anything from the seventies with barbed hooks a plenty and as melodically seductive as any pop punk /new wave triumph release from the following decade. It also simultaneously provides a scintillatingly new and experimental adventure bred in the now. It is a richly stimulating encounter which puts The Duel on the frontline of punk rock.
The first striking impact from the album is the use of poetry and prose in between many of the songs. It is a potent and highly provocative ideation which wakes and stirs up thoughts and emotions time and time again. It is not just words though as each piece is wrapped in an embrace of diverse music which colours the dramatic and enthralling canvas set by the voices. Provided by Tara and guests Angie Bowie, Segs Jennings (The Ruts/Ruts DC), Ginger Coyote, and Dennis Just Dennis, those particular tracks slip easily and perfectly between songs which add depth to the spoken narratives and vice versa. The pieces share the same titles as the songs they precede, with Breakaway starting off the album. Keys elegantly court the poetry of Tara as a portentous atmosphere spills its breath around them. As with them all it is a proposition in itself, not an intro but a companion to the song itself which emerges from a great scuzzy electro mist from Andy with rigid rhythms from Pumpy and guitar grazes from Thanos Oscar Pap. It is a less than forceful start but one soaked in dark oppressive drama caressed by the croon of Tara which captures the imagination and an immediate appetite. As the song settles in thoughts a switch is flicked and urgency and energy accelerates to an eager stride which only reinforces the exciting start to the album.
From another piano led skirting this time to an Angie Bowie brewed narrative, Feel The Same dances with raw sonic flames and agitated rhythms around the throaty tones of Chris McDougall’s bass and Tara’s potent vocals. It is an absorbing slice of anthemic rock pop, keys teasing and kissing throughout as energies romp with feisty appetites. An essence of old school punk breathes across the encounter but not as loudly as in the following Gotta Hold To Love. There is a sterner rough edge to riffs and rhythms from the start which the vocals and subsequent quaint twang of keys soothe though at times certainly Tara roars as potently as the guitars. The song is in many ways epitomises The Duel, the band able to produce the most virulently addictive and contagious propositions without the blatant and obvious use of candied hooks and predictable lures.
Things continue to grow in strength and pleasure as Under The Thumb next swaggers into ears. Once more the grouchy sound of seventies punk spices up the exceptional track, a X-Ray Spex toxicity igniting imagination and passions whilst guitars sculpt a web of virulently persuasive textures and simply irresistible bait. Its glory is swiftly matched by Brotherhood which comes after another deeply registering piece of word and sound. Opening on a rich earthy bassline, the song soon wraps the senses in an epidemically alluring groove which is then itself coated in the vibrant vocals of Tara. Atmosphere and sound intensifies as the song spreads its intent, riffs and hooks as an enthralling trap within a blazing web of creative suasion which equally nets everything from ears to emotions.
The first part of Light At The End is an instrumental with gloriously orchestrated structures which proves music itself can be as poetic as words. There is drama, mischief, and expressive endeavour to the piece which in some ways makes the song itself slightly underwhelming initially but with punchy beats and bass prods, the coaxing vocals of Tara and Andy, and the latter’s glassy keys invention the song is soon riding thoughts with relish and mesmeric enterprise. As with most tracks, its body is impressive and gripping but it is the small twists and slithers of ingenious imagination which means things evolve into something truly special, the unpredictable breaks and turns in the direction of the song and the unexpected vocal detours adding delicious extra spice as the song reaches its peak.
Colours next explores with keys which are almost Stranglers like at times as a rosy psychedelic glaze soaking the senses. With a gritty persistence from vocals and rhythms aligned to scorching sonic flames, the song is a riveting protagonist if not quite at the heights of certainly the previous pair of tracks. Both Salesman and Gimmi Your Thing are similar, the pair insatiable with strains of vintage punk simplicity courted by raw hunger of dirty rock ‘n’ roll but lacking the spark to light a major fire in the belly, though each still leaves a vigorously satisfying and compelling presence lingering in memory and emotions.
The album is back on its highest pinnacle with Urgency, an incredible anthem which lures total allegiance through a smouldering coaxing rather than all out lines of hooks and riotous bait but still achieves the same highly successful results. It is a masterful recruitment emulated to the same degree by Love Me Or You Don’t. Merging a reggae swagger with electronic discord and dub teasing, the track is a constantly twisting weave which never relaxes or lets the listener’s senses rest into one inviting premise, instead offering a magnetic and thrilling off kilter waltz which adds another inventive exciting turn in the call of the album.
Closing on the challenging incitement of War, it coming in two equally imposing and vigorously pleasing parts, Waging War is a dynamic fusion of passion induced imagination and bold invention scaling new inspirational heights for the band. The production of the release comes as its predecessor with a hollow essence which ensures everything resonates in touch as well as premise, meaning intensive cloudy essences thicken and flames find a chilled starkness and it works a treat. The Duel has been to the fore of European punk for many a year but with Waging War they are taking on the world and we for one would not bet against them after this triumph.
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