Cuff the Duke

Sidelines of the City

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Cuff the Duke take their unique sense of "epic" to a new level on their third album, the first with a new lineup that contains two original (Paul Lowman and frontman Wayne Petti) and two new (Dale Murray and Corey Wood) members. The album opens with Wayne Petti demanding that God prove whether he should live or die, in a performance that evokes Nick Cave or -- more specifically -- 16 Horsepower. The second number, "Surging Revival," is some sort of bizarro take on '60s-era falsetto Motown, proving that Cuff the Duke's ability to hop, skip, and jump genres is alive and well in their new incarnation. Then comes the gorgeously addictive Blue Rodeo meets U2-esque "Failure to Some" -- which, at seven minutes in length -- finally achieves the epic scope toward which the band has been increasingly aspiring. The rest of the album is filled with surprises -- the heartbreaking "The Ballad of the Tired Old Man" (which features the very creative use of a horn section), the driving "Long Road" (spotlighting one of the most powerhouse guitar solos in recent memory) -- and there are even a couple of potential hit singles lurking in "Remember the Good Times" and "By Winter's End." The album closes brilliantly with "Confessions from a Parkdale Basement," in which Petti espouses some pretty heavy philosophy very fast for the first half of the song, only to segue into a hypnotic instrumental -- and in the tradition of great stoner classics, the album ends with a lone sustained note held for an entire minute. Cuff the Duke definitely have something to say, and they continue to say it in a highly original, endlessly listenable fashion. It will be most fascinating to hear their next album, which is being produced by Blue Rodeo genius Greg Keelor. A dream pairing, indeed.

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