Duke 72 is a new project formed by Big Hogg’s Justin Lumsden with drummer Jonny Mitchell (Future of Dead Relic Memories, Bricolage, The Stranglers). According to the press release it was conceived, written and performed by Justin Lumsden and Jonny Mitchell during a single nine-hour tracking session in Glasgow, with no prior rehearsal. Some of the music was written from scratch that day, while some others were revisiting material which had been thought about years earlier. After Mitchell returned to Melbourne the album was then completed with guest appearances from Justin’s Big Hogg bandmates Ross McCrae and Sophie Sexon, and Lavinia Blackwall (ex-Trembling Bells). The result is an incredibly evocative and atmospheric album, one in which in some ways is incredibly interesting and in others isn’t.
In many ways it sounds as if it was recorded no later than 1972, which makes me wonder if that is why there is a number in the band name. Harmony guitars, slide, little bits of horn, it’s almost as if Stone The Crows are back in town (with male lead vocals), while early Seventies band like Savoy Brown and Chicken Shack are also here (less blues than either, but with the same feel). There are bits of songs which are nothing but sheer delight, showing what might have been, but there is the downside in that they never really live up to the expectations offered. Most of this is down to the quality of some of the material, some of which would have benefited from judicious editing. By the end of “Backbone of a Jellyfish” I wanted to scream at trombone player Ross McCrae and ask him to stop repeating the same phrase over and over again as it was driving me insane. This feels more like a cult release than one which is going to set the world alight. There are plenty of Canterbury influences, some lovely rich guitar distortions combined with some sweet clear lines, but this is an album full of experiences and not many songs to which I want to keep returning.
The frustrating thing is that when they get it right, such as on “Oxblood and Rings”, which is a wonderful ballad, one can almost forgive them all their other sins. But not quite. Next time there needs to be a lengthier songwriting process, more culling, and then I am sure there will be quite an album to behold. I for one am looking forward to it.
7/10 Kev Rowland