Release Date: Apr 10, 2012
Record label: Sonic Unyon
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Where Grand Duchy's first album Petit Fours felt like a sampler of all the different directions the band could pursue, Let the People Speak finds Violet Clark coming into her own as a songwriter and performer. It may not be coincidental that she wrote many of these songs while Frank Black was on tour with the Pixies; at any rate, he takes a more subordinate role on this album which lets Clark's abilities shine, particularly on "See-Thru You," which has more bite than all of Petit Fours combined and on "White Out," where her jagged vocals and riffs bounce over a Motorik-tinged rhythm. There's a lot more personality on Let the People Speak -- or maybe that should be personalities: not only does Clark adopt many more musical personae than she did before, the album also features voice-overs from Phoenix DJ Jonathan L, whose smoky ramblings are sometimes clever, sometimes too self-referential, but nevertheless a distinct artistic choice.
We like it when families or lovers sing together. The Carter Family, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Oasis, the White Stripes, Handsome Furs, Arcade Fire – the real drama we read about, or the tension and passion we could just be imagining, can give the music a heightened sense of intimacy and intensity. Blood or romance can become guarantees of authentic connection between our stars.
When musical partnerships are also romantic ones, they often acquire a certain kind of sanctity from the possibility that the former is an extension of the latter. Violet Clark is more explicit about her work with husband Frank Black. Describing the difference between their first two records collaborating as Grand Duchy, she explains "if Petit Fours was missionary, Let the People Speak needs to be doggystyle." Point taken, but mind you this is a record meant for public consumption and money that could otherwise be spent on beer and shoes, not illicitly acquired boudoir photography.
Upon first glance, Grand Duchy seem like a group of folks stuck between stations, trying to mix glam-y electro-clash disco with introspective indie rock, playing catch-up with a ten-year-old novelty trend. Wouldn't you know it though, Grand Duchy are the latest project from the extremely prolific Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV, generally known as Frank Black, here using his Pixies moniker of Black Francis. Grand Duchy (a collaboration with his wife, Violet Clark) is Black's first band since the Pixies that don't deign to use his name to sell themselves.