DUDS - Of A Nature Or Degree

by Sean Hewson Rating:8 Release Date:2017-09-22

I know precious little about DUDS except that they’re from Manchester and wear matching clothes.  I’ve seen them live (loved it), so I know they’re real. Of A Nature Or Degree is their debut album and, as the twelve songs on it are all very short, this will be a somewhat breathless rampage through the joys of this highly impressive piece of work.

No Remark kicks in with DUDS’ trademark sound – discordant, angular guitars and difficult time signatures. On this song they are somewhere in between Captain Beefheart and Gang of Four. The bass lines are ridiculously complicated but also repetitive. Signal, Sign introduces a bit of trumpet to the mix. As usual there is the simultaneously confusing but also tight sound of two guitars and a bass playing totally different, but inter-locking parts whilst the drummer does something else entirely. No one is here solely to ‘hold an end down’. A Different Stage is half a minute long but they just about manage to fit a chorus in before it stops abruptly. The Nose gets dangerously close to having a proper rhythm guitar part and consequently sails a bit closer to early XTC. A primitive drum machine starts the epic 2 and a half minutes of Irregular Patterns (I like it when titles are their own review, Stereolab used to do that too). This track seems a bit closer to New York No Wave with its brass and clipped, funk, rhythm guitar. They come dangerously close to having a chord progression on this one too. Split On Both Sides is almost Prog Rock-like in its 3 minutes. The pace is slightly slower which allows the sound of the churning guitars to come out more, like Pink Flag by Wire. It’s also quite close to Parquet Courts in its two-chord joy. More impossible to remember, inter-locking parts herald the start of Keine. The bass guitar sound on this is incredible. Of Nature has more of a British Post-Punk feel to it with the half-spoken/half-sung vocals and the brass interjections. The rare sound of a bent note starts Elastic Seal but DUDS quickly lurch into less Bluesy territory. Elastic Seal is a louder, more intense song with all instruments going at it hammer and tongs. A Krautrock rhythm and bass line forms the foundations of Pro Tem, making it one of the more danceable songs on the album. Of course, this is destroyed by descents into noise. Elastic Feel combines staccato guitar and bass lines with sustained trumpet notes which then breaks down into a Free Jazz coda. The best title award goes to Reward Indifference, a slower, lurching song that is quite closer to the early Bad Seeds.

DUDS’ strength is getting quite a lot out of a very set sound. They have found a way to get enough variation into their sound and arrangements to maintain the interest. What is perhaps most impressive about DUDS is not only how they can remember their parts and the songs’ structures but how they can also make it sound so effortless. Presumably there are no near-cult Trout Mask Replica scenarios going on and it’s just hard work and good musicianship.

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