This is a review of "The Bright Lights and What I Should Have Learned" recorded by Duels. The review was written by Luke Ramsden in 2006.
There’ll be no band on earth more relived to have finally succeeded in putting out a full length recording than the boys and girl of Duels. Their scrap book must read like the beginners guide of how NOT to launch a successful pop career. Blighted by unforeseen circumstances and probable self confessed mistakes on their part (you can’t blame the industry for everything after all), it’s a miracle Duels had the tenacity to struggle on and arrive at the point they are now.
But that’s all in the past now, for most of the UK scene Duels have a clean slate, a blank piece of paper which will be filled by the resultant opinions bounced off their debut record, the snappily and aptly titled ‘The Bright Lights And What I Should Have Learned’.
A title tinged with self depreciation but at least an appreciation of the fact that no-one's perfect and ultimately if you learn from your mistakes you’ll re-appear a better person the next time around. The major label golden carrot is out of the question, Duels have surpassed all expectations with this release. Whilst still hinting towards the fact they might be a long way from being the finished product.
Duels are the perfect archetypal indie-pop band, comparisons to bands like the Kaiser Chiefs may be inevitable (yes, they’re both from Leeds, go figure) but Duels are much further down the line in terms of maturity and song progression than Leeds‘ favourite sons. Duels go from poppy tunes that would be at home on any Pulse play list, to beautiful, quasi-epic atmospheric numbers in the blink of an eye. Few bands manage the transition so effortlessly and naturally as Duels do.
The first four tracks on ‘The Bright Lights…’ are as good as any four you’re ever likely to encounter on an album this year. The rousing calls to arms on ‘Brothers & Sisters’, the title track in lyrical terms of ‘Things’, the single quality of ‘Potential Futures’ and then probable album highlight, the magnificent ‘The Slow Build’, which has more than a little Hope Of The States quality about it. It would be impossible to contemplate the rest of the album maintaining such outstanding levels for the duration but in those four songs, Duels prove they have what it takes to produce a classic.
Throughout the remainder Duels showcase aspects of The Polyphonic Spree, The Flaming Lips, Pulp, some post-punk revelry on ‘Pressure On You’ and a slight Arabian feel on ‘Once In The Night’. The balance of variance and cohesion between songs is just about perfectly maintained but if you do happen to be foolishly looking for the next Kaisers or whatever you’ll be sadly left wanting.
Who knows, that could very well benefit Duels in the long run. They’ve finally set out their stall from which to ply their mature indie pop wares. Will you be drawn in by this slightly dishevelled and weary battle worn Duels troop or would you rather purchase those shiny bauble things that Ricky Wilson’s pedalling? Just depends how deep you want your music to hit I guess.
‘The Bright Lights And What I Should Have Learned’ is more than just a sigh of relief, it’s a celebration of the failures of the past and the potential futures ahead. Duels have fought adversity and Duels won.