Song download: Click here to get "It's Alright" for free, legallyDurban is sometimes jokingly called 'The Last Outpost' of the British Empire. This is mostly unfair - Durbanites are as South African as people from any other major town. But it has always been a great place for rock 'n roll with a South African flavour. Deluxe. the latest hot band from the subtropical port city, are clearly proud of their KwaZulu-Natal heritage.
But they don't express this by throwing in little pretentious flavourings of "African" music. Instead, they have made music that comes naturally to them.
Though strongly influenced by top British bands like Radiohead, Coldplay and others, Deluxe sounds South African in that undeniable, indefinable way that whiteboy South African pop does. And the bare songs, with their crystalline guitar picks, relentless but softened drums, and beautifully harmonised melodies that alternately soar and stroke your ears, go straight to the heart. Some bands that make Deluxe's kind of music have become more alternative than thou about pushing the boundaries, like Radiohead. Others seem to have lost their soul, like Coldplay. Deluxe may help you rediscover yours.
From the restrained crescendos of the first track "All" to the subtly catchy barbershop strains of "Star" through ballads about relationships, hurt, and love, they make you feel it. "I'm like a child before Christmas with you" Torsten sings, writing about a lover who makes him a sore loser in the game he can't and won't play. It's easy to believe, even if it's just a stage persona. It's an anthem for anyone who insists on keeping an open heart, even after their courage is abused. And it's proof that great songs, songs that touch our heart, matter. Songs will always matter - what's a rock band without them?
Some might find Fehsenfeld's singing a bit odd - he sounds like he's blowing out his vocals and running out of air sometimes. But this is generally more distinctive than it's distracting, and the overall impression given by This Is Deluxe is of something polished and smooth, a dry, warm and well rounded. Producer David Birch (ex of Squeel) resisted over lubricating the mix with lush effects, and let the characters of the individual musicians come through.
Music aside, the band and those they work with clearly know what they're doing - and that's so important in the slow yet competitive SA rock / pop market. The album's cardboard packaging (by Disturbance design) is matt, silky to the touch. The photos of the band members are styled like old colonial "Last Outpost" head shots, with deadpan frozen faces and sepia tones. Except there's something about each picture that's deliberately just not quite right... and this you'll see for yourself, when you do the right thing and buy the album.
Let's hope that Deluxe get the support they need. Let's hope that they get it before disappointment sets in... As it so often does with really talented South African bands, who're relegated by major labels and distributors to tax write-off status and ignored by the media, while putrid middle of the road imports get all the attention. - Jean Barker
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