It's 11 o'clock on a Monday morning. Patrick Duff, the vocalist in Strangelove, is at home in Bristol and yearning for something. Not, it seems, for alcohol or valium, both of which gnarled his personality for years and helped to invest Strangelove's guitar rackings with a grandiose gloom. No, the enigmatic geezer from the band eulogised by Radiohead and Suede is pining to talk about... walking. Walks through districts that probably only seasoned ramblers are acquainted with. Minutes tick by - and there's no stopping him. He also visits churches, and with an evangelical gust, he reflects on how romantic it is to stare out to sea and watch the
sun go down.
His intensity could turn your insides to blancmange. No wonder those bands love him. But why so much solitude? "I have a much better time walking along a cliff than I'd have at a rave," he asserts. "I used to think my problems are going to be answered if I go out; I would start a relationship, friendship, be understood by people. I had so many expectations that were shat on."
Now he feels that partying is his past. Periods of isolation have created a less cynical Patrick. Not for the first time, he builds up to an emotional crescendo: "Every day when I wake up I feel lucky. I used to want people to inspire me and understand me [thumps table]... but now I am not so demanding."
It is a measure of the strength of the eponymously titled third album, Strangelove, that the best tracks are not those pulled off to be singles. More curious than "The Greatest Show On Earth" are three songs that run consecutively, "Wellington Road", "Runaway Brothers" and "Another Night In". All rock with autobiographical clarity and graceful melodies that should see Strangelove edge further into the mainstream. "Wellington Road" is infused with redemptive fervour, sung as if from the pulpit of the church on which the song is based. The long-time pal sung about in "Runaway Brothers" has proclaimed to Bristol friends, "the whole album is about me!" "Another Night In" starts as tense as a clenched fist, but loosens beautifully.
Truly, Strangelove is an adorable album, and Patrick is a proper star waiting in the wings. At a push, he might actually admit to liking himself. Just a bit. Especially on tour.
"I love being on stage. When I'm with people, I often feel I am not saying what to say. When I am onstage, all my awkwardness goes."
Strangelove, London Astoria
(0171-434 0403) 10 October