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The Duke Spirit 

Cuts Across the Land (StarTime)

Don't let the members of this London five-piece fool you: Claiming not to care whether people think you're cool is almost always the same thing as caring about it. And despite their protestations, the Duke Spirit bandmates are cool: They play dark, churning retro-rock, full of fuzzy guitars and driving drums -- the modern-day equivalent of late-'80s hair metal or early '90s grunge. They're smart too: Instead of having another interchangeable indie guy doing the frontman's heavy lifting, they've got blond bombshell Leila Moss, who provides the band its wisp of originality; her raspy soul-blues holler keeps the Duke Spirit's nervy throb from too closely resembling that of any of the other retro-rock acts currently making the hipster rounds (except for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who now officially have an English counterpart).

Cuts Across the Land works better as bleary morning-after music than it does night-of party rock. At 42 minutes, the album feels long, and the songs tend to bleed together, just like surroundings squinted at through the lens of a hangover. The band also talks a lot of guff about black magic and so forth, which is easier to take if you're not paying full attention. Certainly wouldn't mind a video, though.

More by Mikael Wood

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