By Duke Special
Duke Special has always been an interesting and imaginative musician who has always been a top vaudevillian showman. His live performances are unique individual experiences full of quirk and eccentrism and his albums have been full of original exciting ideas from covers of music hall singer Ruby Murray to creating music for old silent films. These unique projects sit beside studio albums that are full of ambitious and proficient musicianship with a supporting cast of some of the best players around.
'Oh Pioneer' opens with a moving ode to Stargazing entitled 'Stargazers of the World Unite', the title may be a cheeky nod to The Smiths but this song is nothing like 'Shoplifters...'. The song is full of ethereal tones of cymbal rolls, white noise and astronomical glockenspiels. The song seems to be a curious tale of wanting to reach the outer limits and possibilities of life with the chorus line 'How am I gonna get myself to heaven' bringing a sense of wonderment. This seems a more emotional turn for Duke Special heading through the ether as opposed to tales of Brixton or Wanda from the Jockey Club. It is a song that is shimmering and simple that is a great album opener.
The ethereal tones of the album are heightened in 'Little Black Fish' with a saxophone almost taking on a synthesised quality when set up against xylophones, vibes and glockenspiels. The tones and timbres on this album seem specifically selected to take you on a journey through a beautifully constructed sky.
'Snakes in the Grass' has almost a chillwave feel to it punctuated with familiar vaudevillian cheek and rather quirky harmonic Queen-line chants of 'Wayward Child'. It is rather a bizarre track! 'Condition' is a lyrical masterpiece with beautiful lyrics such as: 'Like the words are crawling back inside the ink' and 'I'm an extra, I'm director, I'm a pen drop, I'm Phil Spector'. The lyrics are stacked in a neat row that questions a condition of being. 'Nothing Shall Come between Us' sounds like what you would expect from a Duke Special record, a song of defiant love that is short but sweet. The rest of the album flows with innovative combinations of rhythms and tones and lyrical imagery.
This record is a beautiful ode to exploring, whether it is stars in the sky, our innermost selves, our relationships or the future. This album is a mature record that is full of passion and explanation. With lyrics that are well written and create the most magnificent imagery supported with music that creates the paint on the canvas coloured in with intricate timbres and illuminating shades and tones, 'Oh Pioneer' is a record that is one for the collection.