Duke Special, Oh Pioneer

Ian Gittins

By Ian Gittins

on 07.09.12 in Reviews
Fierce, flamboyant pop magic

“I don’t know enough people who stay up all night, who talk themselves in circles and never say they’re right,” sighs Belfast singer-songwriter Duke Special on “Stargazers of the World Unite,” his 10th album’s opening track and a song that expresses his longing for a social circle of Kerouac-like romantics, dreamers and firebrands. It’s a desire that serves as a mission statement for this heady, overwrought record on which the dreadlocks-sporting Duke — better known to his nearest and dearest as Peter Wilson — once again conjures up fierce, flamboyant pop magic from elements as disparate as vaudeville, baroque electro-pop and keening Celtic soul. In lesser hands, such conflicting constituent parts would only yield a musical dog’s dinner, but Wilson plucks alchemy from potential anarchy thanks to a seemingly endless reservoir of great tunes and melodies. His dexterous and nimble keyboard-driven pop evokes literate mavericks such as Marc Almond, the Divine Comedy and even Ben Folds, yet the soaring choruses of tracks like “Punch of a Friend” and “Nothing Shall Come Between Us” are as giddily infectious as Keane at their most chart-friendly. “I want the world to make some sense,” breathes Duke Special on the spectral “Lost Chord”: His own idiosyncratic musical universe is very much in order.