Patrick Duff - Luxury Problems

Bill Cummings 20/06/2005

Rating: 3/5

Patrick Duff first made an impact in the 1990s with the West Country's finest innovative twisted indie band Strangelove. They created three albums of real dark majesty; and even allegedly influenced a young Radiohead who once supported them. Songwriter and vocalist Patrick Duff developed a reputation as a performer of extreme intensity and spontaneity. Since the break up of Strangelove, Patrick was accused at times losing his way (the aborted Moon project is one such example) taking seven years to finally allow the songs to flow that would make up his debut solo offering “Luxury Problems.”

Despite all of the time that's passed, Luxury Problems is a minor triumph, an emotional, individual, and idiosyncratic record that not only looks back on the past with a wry eye but looks at the present in a humorous, personal and twisted way. This album is not without it's songs that misfire, but what it does have is a beating heart, and a thirst for diversity and musical exploration. The album was recorded in the West Country over the last two years with an impressive list of collaborators including Alex Lee (ex-Strangelove, Suede) and Adrian Utley (Portishead), together with a hand-picked group of musicians including guitarist Mike Mooney and drummer Damon Reece.

Opener 'Married with Kids' resembles a Lou Reed influenced west country rocker and contains a myriad of clever images and words creating a world of kitchen sink drama, and screwed up people: “Six hours later he's going to work/She's crashed out on the bed wearing only a smirk/ She was Adolf Hitler/He was Eva Braun/Screwed up in the bunker with the gas turned on".
Second track 'Mirror Man' is a 60's tinged psychedelic riot, while the Dylan-ish beat of 'Junkies Clothes' replete with harmonica handclaps, acoustic strum and a bag full of worries is a pleasure. There are problems here though; some of the songs don't quite work for me. 'Early Morning Birds' is a surreal poetic mess until the Monty Python-esque lyrics of “here comes another day over the hill with big black boots on” raise a smile, while 'Elephant Bill' is so lyrically clumsy a character song, that I wonder if it's a joke - for example a line like “Shares a Needle with Jimmy Saville/Coz he's bad” in the words of McEnroe “cant be serious”. But this is why people love Patrick. He is an eccentric songwriter who produces songs that hint at genius and madness in equal measure.

It's in the quieter moments that Duff really excels; as he always has. 'F*cked' is a gorgeously melancholic ballad that echo's the best moments of Strangelove's more sedate offerings and 'The King of the Underworld' is a twisted, introspective, chiming, medieval folk song, while album closer 'The Lion and the hawthorn tree' is such a preciously delicate song it could bring a grown man to tears.

This is album is a curious beast. Its good moments are fabulous, its bad moments are jarring, but Patrick Duff is nothing if not a deeply individual songwriter and the impact of these songs will be felt given time to grow with fans. Maybe eventually they will embrace his first solo album, the way they fell in love with Strangelove. Maybe there's still a place for Patrick Duff in our hearts.