Saturday, May 17, 2008

I've Become a Budgie Believer: Duchess Says

I'll admit that I often get too wrapped up in keeping up with the UK and European music scenes to the neglect of my own country's music. This realization truly hit me last year when I was shopping in Spillers, the oldest record shop in the world, which is located in Cardiff. I started talking with the girl behind the counter, and like all passionate music fans, she wanted to recommend her favourites to me. When she discovered I was from Canada, she began gushing about a Canadian band called The Sadies, who she had seen several times in concert. I had never heard of The Sadies, let alone seen them even once. She looked a bit puzzled and disappointed, and I felt a bit sheepish. Ultimately, the style of music The Sadies played wasn't really my thing anyway, but it made me quite aware of how little attention I give to music made in my own backyard, and how I can very well miss bands and artists that I would love. And my recent discovery of Duchess Says, a band from Montreal, has proven this point to me all over again.

Self-described as "moog rock," the music Duchess Says creates falls somewhere between Sonic Youth, Robots in Disguise and Siouxsie and the Banshees, full of distortion, synths, and punky guitars. They've been releasing music since 2005, including the EP Noviciat Mere-Perruche, but I only just noticed them now via other music blogs where their debut album, Anthologie des 3 Perchoirs, is being lauded. Having listened to it (you can stream it and buy it at Alien8 Recordings), I'm going to join the chorus of praise. The album squawks and squeals with feedback while swaying to sleazy disco and new wave synths - at times, it reminds me of Descartes a Kant without the waltzy respites. One of the tracks making its rounds on the blogs is Cut Up, which is a blistering aural attack that leaves you torn between wanting to dance both the robot and the pogo. This duality of synthpop and punk continues through tracks like La Friche, which is awash with reverb as it alternates between something that could have been a Glass Candy track and unhinged banshee-like howls. The level of crazy hits new piercing levels on songs like CH.OB and Les Residents. A Century Old, is Duchess Says probably at their most calm, but then it picks up speed like a cyclone, grabbing more elements as it continues to build electronic layer upon electronic layer. Released single, Black Flag, which has also been remixed by Juan Maclean, is the most synthpop track on the album with a catchy chorus and a strong synth line. Like much of my favourite music, Duchess Says makes you feel like you're listening to someone completely losing their mind and not caring whether they find it again or not. In effect, you can dance your brains out to it.

To add to their quirky appeal, Duchess Says claim to belong to the Church of Budgerigars, which appears to be a budgie-worshipping sect. Perhaps the world would be a better place if we all believed budgies had the answers. Or at the very least, we could all just absorb ourselves with bopping our heads against mirrors. I would love to see our world leaders leaping into mirrors like a volleyball player heading a ball.

Duchess Says is one of those reminders that I should never give up on my own country's music. Looking no farther than the mirror can be wisdom.

Cut Up - Duchess Says

Black Flag - Duchess Says