“The Atmosphere and The Dragon” are the alter-egos of sometime Biffy Clyro/Sucioperro members Simon Neil and JP Reid, who combine forces to form Marmaduke Duke. Their latest release, Duke Pandemonium, is the second of a trilogy of albums; the first, The Magnificent Duke, was an elaborately masterminded record – a concept within a concept – and had a limited release in 2005. Its successor has a more manageable ten tracks to its name and has even radiated a single.
Describing the album is a difficult task because each composition is so densely packed with imaginative audio that dissection is nearly impossible. Each song has a variety of styles and you feel compelled to consult your player every minute or so to see if you’re at a new song. Most obvious are the elements of synth and funk (with a song on the tracklist called “Je suis un funky homme”, you could hardly expect anything else). Every song comes with a hook that breaks it in before being smothered by layers of instrumentation and vocals.
Album opener “Heartburn” is a good example of this: starting with a telephone ringer off a keyboard, it is eventually drowned in an electronic drumbeat, a bass guitar and high pitched vocals. In “Kid Gloves,” on the other hand, the ballerina of a keyboard remains clearly audible throughout the song and surprisingly the melody is fairly consistent.
“Demon” epitomises it best, however — there’s the initial catchy riff that inevitably ends up drowned in sound. But the whole song appears to be made of several parts; the song starts as nothing more than a funkily hollered beat poem; the second part begins when the jangly acoustic guitar is thrown in and we’re told to “get one together” with a “please” added as an afterthought. Then there’s what I’d call the “club” section which would work well on a dancefloor if you just turned up the knob for the bass. The music changes and the drums start marching towards you but the plea to “get one together” remains. You wait for the unavoidable crescendo, but just before it arrives everything dissipates and the song merges seamlessly with the next track: “Erotic Robotic”. There’s something to be said for an album where the transitions between songs are smoother than the transitions within.
“Erotic Robotic” deserves a lyrical mention for the lines that are destined to be immortalized in various forms: “Erotic robotic, despite the accent we’re Scottish.” Another song worthy of a lyrical tip of the hat is the disarmingly charming “Silhouettes” which features rhymes like “I don’t care about people/take that thought and make it illegal” that brazenly exploit the idea of poetic license.
“Je Suis Un Funky Homme” is an album highlight. “Rubber Love”, the single, is great but utterly boring given the unpredictability of the album; a safe bet for an independent release.
The album ends with laughter in the studio and we catch a fragment of an awesome Scottish accent before the microphones are turned off. It’s what you call “sexy.” The album, I mean.