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.