England’s The Duke Spirit have chosen an odd title for their third LP, given that Bruiser is more devoted to lollygagging, mid-tempo blues-rock than blistering or otherwise hard-hitting fare. It’s as if, after conceiving of a violent, unsparing album, The Duke Spirit took a deep breath and counted to 10 before sitting down to write. The resulting dozen tracks, then, ought to seethe with tension, but what leaves a lasting impression about Bruiser is the restraint.
Listeners wade through half an album of ballads (“Villain,” “Don’t Wait”) and catchy-yet-bland alt-rock (“Cherry Tree,” “Procession”) before stumbling upon anything particularly edgy or interesting in “Bodies’” sexy, driving bassline and ethereal vocals. Sultry singer Liela Moss does add a nice sense of languid danger to tracks like the slinky “Running Fire.” But little of what’s on offer here lives up to the explosive spontaneity the title suggests. The Duke Spirit have produced a collection of tight, well-executed modern rock fare, but bruisers they are not.