by / March 19th, 2009 /

Grand Duchy – Petit Fours

 2/5 Rating

(Cooking Vinyl)

Grand Duchy’s debut album ‘Petit Fours’ is consistently and bizarrely experimental. Opener Come On Over To My House dabbles in soft-core metal and lightly strained lyrics. Standout track Fort Wayne goes for a heavy sixties-pop sound with added Fratellis-style la-la-las. Long Song‘ heads off on another tangent, with attitude-fuelled girl vocals and old-school synthesizers.

As individual tracks, these all work at least passably well; throw them together in an album, however and you’re left with a bit of a musical car crash. Despite the odd gem, the lack of any coherent flow makes ‘Petit Fours an effort to get to the end of. Violet Clarke’s often-unimpressive vocals add to the suffering: even at third listen I’m not entirely sure she can sing. The start of final track Volcano is the worst offender, with Violet quipping -Is this song starting? I’m a little confused’. At this point, only the need to write this review saves the CD from a new job scaring crows in my next-door neighbour’s front garden.

It’s not all bad though. Aside from Violet, the other half of this husband-wife duo is Pixies lead singer and guitarist Black Francis, and his strumming is equally high-class on the acoustic and electric parts of the assortment. The use of synths on several tracks doesn’t always come off, but when it works it sounds fresh. Francis’ grunts are invariably more convincing than Violet’s, and – credit where it’s due – the sheer variety covered over nine tracks means you’re almost certain to like something.

Which leaves you with a choice: buy it, listen though, and never listen to most of the album again. Or – and this is probably the wiser option – beg, borrow or steal a copy and, having had a listen, download whichever part of this incredibly random mix takes your fancy. Just don’t expect anything remotely resembling the Pixies.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • Jer

    I don’t know if I quite agree. I’ve been listening to Frank Black ever since The Pixies, hoping for more Pixies, but the reality is it’s never going to happen. However Violet Clarke evoked Kim Deal for me, and with Frank at the helm this is like “Pixies Evolution”. Not for the casual listener, I agree, but if you like any of Frank’s solo stuff then this is up there with the better albums.

  • Fair enough, I dont think Ive ever had a conversation about music where everyone agreed! I didnt enjoy it at all, and for me that ‘is this song starting’ thing was a major nail in the coffin. Almost Mika-esque. IMO Kim Deal was a far more natural and competent singer than Violet Clarke, she frequently seems to be struggling with both pitch and vocal power.

    I’ve never been a big fan of the solo albums, perhaps I was being too optimistic in expecting something more Pixies like. I’d definitely given up on the idea that it was ever going to happen before this album though. I just didn’t think it was very coherent as a record, and didn’t have any particular highlights either. In fact, of all the albums I’ve ever reviewed, this is one of only about five I didn’t keep a copy of. I listened to it a few times through, just didn’t dig it. You reckon I should have given it more time?

  • Jimbo

    I take it that don’t have a sense of humor…and or lack of intelligence. You missed the point.

  • I’m surprising myself by even responding to such a wind up comment, but not responding would give you the last word….

    Jimbo, the irony of you making a point on ‘intelligence’ without having the basic intelligence to even make an argument yourself suggest that perhaps the pot should leave off the kettle? I’ll go ahead and assume you disagree, and think this is a good album…

    Care to explain what ‘the point’ actually is? If it needs explaining to someone who’s heard pretty much every inch of the related material, it’s a point extremely badly made. Perhaps Violet’s complete inability to sing is a cleverly crafted plan I don’t know about? As for a sense of humour, Britney makes me laugh, I suppose she deserves a positive album review?

    I’m going to go ahead and assume that by ‘lack of intelligence’ you mean not agreeing with you, seeing as you haven’t actually explained how the review is stupid (if you do I’m more than happy to talk about it…). Lose the sense of self importance, enjoy the album, you could even write your own review to balance it up if it makes you happy? there’s plenty of room below. Alternatively you could set the thought police on me.

    Expressing my opinion when reviewing an album is actually part of the job.If you read the point above I’m quite capable of being gracious about it when someone actually takes the time to make a sensible argument. I disagree with you, and this album review does that in a considerably more intelligent and less obnoxious way than you’ve managed so far. So sue me.

  • Joe

    haha, WUMs! You just got owned Jimbo.