Perhaps what we have here is the Irish Meatloaf.
Garth Cartwright 2009
Duke Special – Peter Wilson to his wife and children – is a Belfast-based singer-songwriter who enjoys a good deal of popularity in his native Ireland without yet having quite won over an international audience. This album (his third) was released in his homeland last year, but now it's crossed the Irish sea in search of approval from UK audiences. It's a close run thing as to whether his blend of oddball pop will find a place in our hearts.
Wilson sings and plays piano and incorporates a strong sense of vaudeville into his material – the vaudeville element comes through in a jaunty sense of music making, a willingness to play up the absurd and goofy, choruses that encourage audience singalongs and a very visual and quite ridiculous quality to it. All of which is good – the last thing the world needs is another po-faced singer-songwriter – and Duke Special conveys a real sense of entertainment across this CD.
But . . . but who is this album aimed at? Several listens don’t suggest Duke Special is very certain himself. There's the influence of Rufus Wainwright – the archness and camp playfulness – yet Wainwright is a much more distinctive talent. And while Duke Special can create a big, rolling chorus (actually, many of the songs appear to consist of little other than big, rolling choruses) that does not make for much more than a pub singalong. The more personal songs – such as Why Does Anybody Love? – recall Elton John's 1980s work. Yet they lack the voice, melodic gift and lyrical tautness of the best Elton material. This is big statement stuff but there's not yet enough concentration in the craft to guarantee the hits that he so obviously craves.
Duke Special’s an odd one; mainstream yet offbeat. Perhaps what we have here is the Irish Meatloaf.