Let the People Speak – Grand Duchy – Album Review

“Hey, Wite-Out, by the way, used to be used very, very much, very popular item, kinda like Post-Its *chuckle*. But people don’t use Wite-Out as much as they used to use it becaaauuuse of the internet.”

Grand Duchy have pulled the rock into the background a bit and put New Wavy disco in the spotlight on their second full-length Let the People Speak (released April 10, 2012, on Sonic Unyon). While 2009’s Petits Fours did have pieces that could have animated a dance floor, rock was right there beside it, along with moments of Francis’ unbridled howling, hearkening back to the Pixies days. Let the People Speak, on the other hand, has coaxed disco forward to let it shine.

“Kinda reminds me of maybe a glittery Lou Reed? Ya? Or maybe a Ziggy? Manhattan? A lot of artists and musicians used to congregate there, because of that… forget it, alright, stop right there… Pick it up now.”

Formed in 2008 by Violet Clark and Black Francis, who are married and have five children (two of which are from Clark’s previous relationships), Grand Duchy sound like they’re having a blast making fun, weird, and catchy yet unconventional… music. Let’s just call it music because indie-disco-punk-post-pop-dance-rock-insert-label-here is cumbersome. Or, better yet – let’s call it good music. Grand Duchy have a lot up their sequined sleeve, which quickly becomes apparent as “See-Thru You” effortlessly alternates between dance and rock. The balance is so fine that I find myself wondering whether I’m listening to rock, dance, rocky dance, dance-y rock… in the end, who cares? I dig it.

Not every single second of this album makes you dance-till-you-drip (“Where Is John Frum?” would feel right at home on a roots-rock Frank Black album; “Shady” is as rock as it gets on here), but the vast majority do – the bouncy bop of “White Out” (cool video here),  the clubby melody of the first single “Silver Boys” (hedonistic video here), the addictive beat of “Illiterate Lovers”. The grooves of “Dark Sparkes and the Beat”, which starts off with Violet’s spacey vocals over piano and acoustic guitar and transforms into a bass guitar-driven pop-rocker, and “Two Lies and One Truth” are guaranteed to at least make your head bop, bop, bop, despite their mellower tempo.

“There’s a lot of amateur actors out there, in life.”

The songs on Let the People Speak are separated by short vignettes spoken by Jonathan L (a friend of the band from Berlin), some simply telling you what you’re listening to, and others of a more absurdist nature (see italic quotes above and below). These weird little verbal interludes underline what is at the heart of Grand Duchy’s charm – fun and humour. The lightheartedness is felt throughout all their material; in the songs, the vignettes, and even their videos, which you can check out here. There’s something about them not taking themselves seriously that makes me take them very seriously.

The album’s title track wraps up the disco-infused romp that is Let the People Speak. The tune is partying somewhere in between the Kids in the Hall theme and Keli Hlodversson’s “Sad Disco” (which also recently seeped into Mark Lanegan’s fantastic “Ode to Sad Disco”, though to a far greater degree with Lanegan). While Lanegan’s song is clearly identified as homage to the original, “Let the People Speak” is more of a subliminal reminiscence.

You can snag “Silver Boys” free for a limited time on Grand Duchy’s Facebook. Once that hooks you, you can pick it up here, along with some other cool swag.

“The thing that I think about this song is that I used to order pea soup a lot *chuckle*.”