Cards on the table: I am a friend of this artist’s mother-in-law. If that bothers you read no further. Regardless of your opinion on my journalistic integrity, I would urge you to give this album a listen anyway. Because it’s very good. And it’s also refreshingly funny. Now read on…
There is not enough humour in rock music. It is common for other genres to work a few gags into their music. Hip hop artists are always making jokes or even performing entire sketches on their albums. Indie acts are constantly raising a quizzical eyebrow as they dispense another barbed observation (I’m looking at you Morrissey, Belle & Sebastian, Neil Hannon). Even Mozart composed funny (and often bawdy) songs. But ‘heavy’ rock (by which I mean any band championed in Kerrang) seems rather po-faced about itself (aside from The Darkness, who tread a very tricky line between musical credibility and pantomime).
It’s not that Lyle Christine’s excellent Duff Steer is overflowing with gags, but there is a pervading wit about the whole package. Duff Steer’s cover, an image of a crimson herring, plays a circular joke on its own title. The song titles alone suggest their author appreciates the ridiculous (Knitting Nancy, Hoots). That’s not to say that Duff Steer is in any way shallow. This is Glasgow-based Lyle Christine’s eighth album. He’s a politically aware grown up who gets angry about the important stuff: Grimace mocks the fickle nature of social media audiences, Fracker skewers the exploitation of natural resources (I think).
Perhaps I’ve made too much of the humour thing – above all Duff Steer is a damn good rock album. The urgent Say That Again teams a dirt-simple Led Zep-esque riff with a filthy solo. The hook to Mustard Hop reminded me of the theme to 70’s cartoon, Rhubarb and Custard (in a good way). My favourite track Port Valour conjures the melodic twin-guitar attack of Thin Lizzy.
It’s compelling stuff. Despite the cynicism of his words and aggression of his playing, the album is full of catchy hooks and propulsive guitar. There are solos (Lyle spanks a good plank) but there is no fat here. Duff Steer is lean and mean. Which is a relief to me and his mother in law.