This is a review of "The Barbarians Move In" recorded by Duels. The review was written by Shane Spencer in 2008.
Although I liked their early singles I failed to be inspired by Duels’ debut album "The Bright Lights", hence it was more with interest rather than any actual desire that I approached this, their second album. So it was with surprise and delight that I found that I was immediately drawn in by it; they've moved on from their angular-pop sound to a grander style of music - it's a beautifully dark, moody and euphoric album with many layers that feels almost operatic in its scale at times.
Next single "Regeneration" is a strong song, but the most immediate track for me was "Perimeter Fence" that uses a repetitive chorus so that by the end of the song you're already singing along - very much like "One Call" by Kings of Leon. I could also draw comparisons to other bands like Interpol, Goldfrapp (outside their disco phase), David Bowie, and even little know artist Mark Stoney but to compare them to any one band or trying to pigeonhole them into one genre would be oversimplifying quite an expansive sound.
The inclusion of violins and the use of what appears to be a full choir on this album works really well, lending a haunting quality to the music that brings to mind the windswept North Sea coast where it was reportedly produced. Many bands build an album round 3 or 4 good songs, and even the very best often fail to maintain a consistant quality throughout, but "The Barbarians Move In" works well as an album that is blessedly free from "filler" songs.
The change of direction for Duels is one I've found very welcome, they've produced an album of substance that although may not be as commercially viable as many of their contemporaries it's far more emotionally satisfying, even the artwork of stark black and white images is aesthetically pleasing and in keeping with the mood of the album.