This is yet another cult favorite band that I’ve just now heard of, and after listening to Thin Black Duke, it’s another band that I need to dig up their entire discography. They’re a Californian Experimental Rock band that blends Punk, Metal, Jazz, Rock, and Blues into a strange soup of compelling music. Singer Eugene Robinson is the propellant for this strange but natural sounding music. He’s not afraid to contort his voice, move further away or closer from the listener, wail and cry, all in a 15 second second span.
Cold and Well-Lit Place kicks off the album in a groovy fashion, and sets the precedent for their erratic musical style. Hard hitting drums and visceral guitars change keys and tempo at the drop of a hat, and it all makes for a very fun album to listen to. Ecce Homo has some fantastic vocal delivery from Robinson, blurring singing and spoken word, perfectly bridging anxiety and bubbling rage as it feels like the band could explode at any moment. This is maybe evident in the follow up A Gentleman’s Gentleman, with Robinson delivering nonstop gruff, manic lyrics. Letter of Note is extremely blue, probably as melancholy as they get on the album. The variation of instrumentation is no different on this song, with a number of strings coming in to lift the band off their feet, but Robinson’s sorrow keeps them grounded. The Finished Line is an apt title for the closer, it’s an epic and sprawling piece that combines all the elements that they used on this album into one seamless song. It’s aggressive, sexual, dour, intoxicated, and emphatic – the whole album wrapped up into one song.
I wasn’t sure about reviewing Thin Black Duke since I only listened to it a few times, but I wanted to get my thoughts down. It’s one of those albums that I feel I could keep digging in to, again and again till I pulled it apart completely. I would absolutely recommend this album to any fans of Rock, especially if you love Swans. They’re not nearly as grotesque, but they share a lot of musical themes and ideas. Then if you love it like I do, check out the rest of their albums, they’ve been making music since ’88. And saying all that, an interview with Eugene Robinson revealed that they plan on changing styles drastically on the album after this, so there’s another one I’m looking forward to.