Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Koko, London
Wednesday 20 February 2008
Despite the heroic overtones of his stage name, tonight is more a case of get cape, fumble, recover, as this idiosyncratic solo artist struggles with the richer soundscapes of his second album. Maybe the fact that Sam Duckworth, to give him his real name, is wearing glasses means that he is more Clark Kent than Superman.
When Duckworth emerged in 2006, he was a Billy Bragg-style busker energised by the ambition of Radiohead's OK Computer. Nevertheless, his debut album Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager fizzed with the hormonal angst of a bedroom poet and sounded like it was recorded there, too. Its follow up Searching For The Hows And Whys promises to be a more forceful affair, as befits a record made with a larger array of musicians and produced by the acclaimed composer Nitin Sawhney.
First, though, Duckworth needs to recover from appalling opener "We Waited For the Monster to Drown". The artist has claimed drum and bass as an influence, but with its hard-rock guitar and frenzied percussion, the effect is more like drillcore, the dance equivalent of thrash metal. Soon, though, he and his band settle down on material from his debut. "An Oak Tree" comes with a retro pub-rock feel, thanks to Duckworth's flexible two-piece brass section, who immediately turn to louche G-funk on "I-Spy".
This 22-year-old Essex boy started out in his late teens simply with guitar and laptop, later adding a cornet player. An expanded line-up gradually imposes itself on recent fare, bringing a slight Eighties cheesiness.
To sweeten Duckworth's resentment of advertisers on "The Children Are (the Consumers of) the Future", it starts as smooth as Sade before morphing into Matt Bianco's Latin vibes. On Searching, due out next month, the artist comes out of his room and looks the world in the eye. He admits he lacks all the answers, which is refreshing as the new material avoids his earlier preachy tone.
Is this why Duckworth sounds so uncertain between songs? He explains how it is worth demanding Fairtrade tour T-shirts, because little gestures eventually lead to firms such as Marks and Sparks investing in better factories, but carries all the conviction of an unwilling sixth-form debater, rather than generation spokesman.
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