Artist: Duck. Little Brother, Duck!
Album: Don’t Take Our Filth Away
Label: Topshelf Records
I know I’m not supposed to like this, because this is all faintly ridiculous. And yet…I kinda do. There’s no consistency beyond the rough and tumble set-up; the songs are all varying lengths and it’s nigh impossible to figure out what they’re actually singing about, but the rough-hewn mentality of this record is something that’s impossibly infectious. It’s a difficult listen alright, and likely to alienate far more than it endears, but I can’t help discerning some artistic intrigue amidst all the grainy noise.
The important thing is to give up all attempts at gleaning a direction and just take each song on its own merits. If the band were into streamlining their work, they’d doubtless have picked a more user-friendly name. They’d also have, presumably, given the vocals a more prominent role than the spectral, echoing one they largely occupy throughout. It’s difficult to overlook the notion of self-importance in an album so wilfully inaccessible but the devil-may-care debauchery of all of this has more charm than you’d expect.
“732 Seconds” sets things up neatly and wastes no time in introducing listeners to what they can expect. It’s atmospheric, with agitated chords stretched over entire verses of wailing. It sounds ravaged and distressed and intensely discordant, making its mark immediately as something quite stubbornly unique. There’s something very welcome about this kind of mentality, as a great deal of alternative music these days is defined by glamour and spectacle as opposed to individuality. Even if you think Don’t Take Our Filth Away is all bullshit, at least it isn’t trying to seduce you with on-trend dubstep patterns or vapid autotuning. “Everybody Loves Screamo” (and I beg to differ, friends), keeps the record on a gritty and rugged course, setting choppy and sporadic music to pick its way through a barrage of vocal mountains. The latter are more like distant recollections than actual vocals – it’s mad, but it has some kind of weird, vacant appeal. At least, there’s enough intrigue here to suggest hidden magic if you’re compelled to seek it out.
“I Would Have Been Deported” earns immediate credentials for its ability to buck the grammatical epidemic of ‘would of’ where ‘would have’ should be. It’s a bit more thoughtful and mild at the outset, evolving into something methodical and complex. “OMGMT” is properly frazzled. Climactic and urgent, the singing takes the form of distant screeches and hollers, peeking miserably in through the cracks in the music. The instruments are all rustic will and sum up the prevailing tone of the album – addled, and disarrayed. The song doesn’t hold itself together particularly well however, and at seven minutes in length it’ll test anyone’s patience. “I’m Just Happy to be Around So Many Docks” is of a similar vein, though the vocals are far more fervent. They act as a wild heart for the music, adding the visceral streak that has come to define the record. The instruments are downplayed by comparison with other tracks – or at least, they’re less insistent on hogging all of the attention and provide the murky backdrop for the singing instead.
This is not to imply that the album is without flaws. When it wears, it really wears, so that by the time tracks such as “Calvin Young” roll around it’s difficult to keep paying attention. The music on this track is particularly demanding and it’s far too uninvolving a follow-up to its predecessor. “Anarchy Will Make You Pay Five Dollars at the Door” is a total mess at first and overstays its welcome at the end, though this is perhaps more to do with where it’s slotted in the tracklisting. There is a harmony-laden midsection that’s quite thrilling, so long as you’re still around and paying attention.
While much of this album will bewilder listeners, particularly when the longer songs set down roots and then just refuse to leave, it is bafflingly compelling. Hardly spellbinding, there is nonetheless some obstinate grace lingering amidst the grimy folds. Don’t Take Our Filth Away won’t sweep you off your feet but it is more challenging than most records, so those who do take something more intimate away from it will feel far more rewarded.
Review written by Grace Duffy