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. Judge Knot
DIY used to mean scratchy and hissy music – very much low in fidelity, often created by talented songwriters with little interest in glitzy studios run by big record labels.
Fast forward to 2017, and technology means that home-based acts can produce professional and polished albums like this, Lyle Christine’s eighth solo release. Of course, if the music’s not up to it… but it very much is.
Closest to grunge in style, the 10 tunes here are all driven by infuriatingly catchy guitar licks - it rocks as hard as the Seattle acts of yore.
Lyrically, yes, it’s angsty, although largely tongue-in-cheek: “I worry that I worry far too much”. Can’t see a problem here… Stuart McHugh
This is the eighth album from the self-confessed Glasgow-based "shambles". But Lyle reckons Duff Steer is his "strongest album to date, despite the fact there are two s*** songs on it".
Personally, of the 10 songs on the album, I can't find those two less palatable tunes. To my ears, the DIY-bedroom slacker grunge sound of this album is fantastic.
In a world of Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, Duff Steer is anything but. Instead, it's like an aural Band-Aid for the ears.
The album opens with the heavy metal crunch of Hoots. It's an eye-opening take on the current state of the world: "Maybe there's a group for victims of torture, sit around discuss the horror".
Lyle's voice has the languid drawl of Beck or Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre, turning the metal grit of the music into something more knowing with grin-making lyrics like Say That Again's "I saw a sign today it said 'no signs are allowed'".
Bumpkin updates glam rock, Mustard Hop is 80s hair rock and Grimace harks to Nirvana as it rails against how self-centred we've become.
Minkerton is joyous despite the lyrics: "Each morning is a curse".
Final song Fracker is another roar against society's mindless sheep-like mentality: "They pretend to give you choice, every week more deceit is what they give".
Eight albums since 2007's debut Why Doesn't My Album Sound As Loud As Everyone Else's? and two years after his last album, The Landed Gentry, Lyle reckons he's "marching toward the inevitability of a cold, dark grave, trying to record some decent albums in the interim". Job done. Rick Fulton
Well I don’t know much about Lyle Christine, he comes from Glasgow (good start). ‘Duff Steer’ seems to be his eighth album and he is a great guitarist.
‘Duff Steer’ out on 20th March and is a straight between the eyes grunge rocker. I would imagine a power trio swamped in the influences of Rory Gallagher, Nirvana and Thin Lizzy. Just under forty minutes, there is no lapse in the power throughout. The guitar riffs and solos are sonic heaven!
Lyle’s own press sheet claim’s “this is his strongest album to date despite the fact there are two sh*t songs on it". On listening I can’t find those particular two songs, for an aging rocker like myself it’s just best to stick this album on and turn up the the volume! Peter Eley
I’m in two halves about this album. Probably because the album itself is in two halves: the good half and the bad half.
Mr Christine has been good enough to split it right down the middle for us as well, so my recommendation would be just to listen to tracks 6-10. Previous songs are prime examples of how genre-bending can go terribly wrong, whereas these are an absolute joy of mish-mashed nonsense that nevertheless sound excellent.
The aptly named Standard Bearer marks a noticeable change in the sound (/soundS, as there doesn’t seem to be a single sound Lyle’s going for here (I mean there’s drum and bass, indie and heavy rock and plinky plonky folk? Wit?! Anyway…)) of the album: it just seems much more mature, in terms of vocals especially.
Then it’s from strength to strength Lyle goes, with breathtaking guitar solos abound as well as cutesy toe tapper Sunny With Showers and little dreamy funk-nugget Twerping. The last track does return to the dreariness of the first half but this works much better as a darkly weird end to the album. And I’ll give him it, the last refrain is funny. Caitlin Walker
One of a ever-increasing number of solo artists making bedroom DIY music, Lyle Christine is no newcomer to this game. His seventh solo album in eight years (following a few before that as part of grunge outfit Stigma) is a meandering mix of genres and indeed volumes. Opener 'Wilting Member' is a tuneful acoustic workout that careers into a wall of noise. Rock roots are evident, but old school guitar riffd meld with electronic blips and squawks in what seems at times to be a headlong rush to go off at the next tangent. As he sings in 'Safe as Poppies' "I'd like to place an order / For chaos and disorder". Sold! Stuart McHugh
My top unexpected discovery of recent months is Lyle Christine, whose seventh - yes, seventh - album in eight years, The Landed Gentry, is available from download sites and his own website (www.lylechristine.com). Written, recorded and released through his own solo efforts in Glasgow, this is impressively complex but catchy music, not just in terms of the arrangements, which might set psych-folk vocals against rock guitar and hip hop beats, but in structure, as any given song might leap off in an entirely different direction without prior notice.
His sense of balance is tremendous: balance of acoustic and electric, of folksy waft and heavy rock distortion, of loose lyrics and tight beats. In local terms I'd count him in the cool crowd with Jonnie Common and Adam Stafford, but The Landed Gentry is so inventive in its capricious genre mix that Beck was the first name that came to mind. Alan Morrison (Arts Editor)
Lyle Christine has been knee deep in the Scottish music scene for years now, whether producing grunge tinged rock with his former band Stigma, or typing epic bile flecked messages on numerous forums, messages that most fail repeatedly to see the obvious humour in. It’s safe to say that most people just don’t ‘Get’ Lyle.
Which is a pity, because his latest project Caveat Audiens (‘listener beware’, latin fans) has been producing excellent machine pop for the last couple of years, all the time fighting against the music industry by releasing everything for free. ‘Eternal Return of the Lame’ sees Lyle’s obvious talent for words finally match up with his music, with punchy almost Weezer sized melodies rubbing up against satisfyingly crunchy guitars. Pretty much every track is excellent, with the stand out being ‘RRP’, a tune so huge that it should be a hit all over the English speaking world. Put your preconceptions about Lyle to one side, point your browser at his site, and enjoy some of the best pop to be coming out of Scotland right now. Alex Botten