The Duke Spirit

Cuts Across the Land

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Collecting songs dating back to the band's very first singles and EPs, Cuts Across the Land showcases the Duke Spirit's fiery, bluesy indie rock. It's clear that they worship PJ Harvey (especially on "Win Your Love"), Patti Smith, and the Velvet Underground -- influences that are pretty much the touchstones for any cool, tough-sounding band with a powerful frontwoman. However, the Duke Spirit manages to wear these influences in a way that seems more broken-in and comfortable than derivative, like an old concert T-shirt that still looks too cool to stop wearing. Like their geographically and musically similar contemporaries the Kills, the band brings new energy to these influences, although the Duke Spirit is rawer and grittier (and with a lineup that's 250 percent larger than that of the Kills, a much fuller-sounding band). Singer Liela Moss is indeed a force to be reckoned with, an equally aloof and alluring presence that acts as the Duke Spirit's lightning rod, steering the band from bold moments like the title track and "Lion Rip" to appealingly weary ballads like "Hello to the Floor" and "Bottom of the Sea." Cuts Across the Land is a strong, self-assured debut, even if the Duke Spirit needs to work a little harder to escape the long shadow of their forebears.

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