The Duke Spirit has all the right elements in place for a modern rock band: a sultry, charismatic lead singer; swaggering, noisily tuned guitars; the praises of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen; and even a featured song on Guitar Hero 5. And yet the UK-based outfit has remained, over the course of its eight-year career, a modestly popular band with little recognition beyond its own fan base. So, the nagging question is: Why?
The new Bruiser may be a clue to that. For one, it took three years to get released, and in these blink-and-it’s-gone times, that’s an eternity. Had Bruiser—with its jangly, garage-rock sound and bluesy, orphic vocals—been released just a bit earlier, it might have had a bigger impact. As it is, Bruiser is an album with some promise, but not much. It’s a more polished, if languid, Duke Spirit than previous efforts. Moody ballads swell between fuzzed-out, power-rock numbers, but there are few breakout moments. A couple tracks are stunning—the heavy and tumultuous “Bodies,” for one—but much of the record is a gray wash. The Duke Spirit may have intended a more accessible sound on its third record, but in the process, it seems to have lost its edge.