Jon Gordon writes
A name that isn’t such a widely known one, Duncan Lloyd was a member of Maximo Park, of whom a few of you will have heard, and is also a painter and photographer when he isn’t writing and recording music. I certainly know who Maximo Park are / were, and that doesn’t entirely stem from their best know song, the mainstream bothering thrash epic ‘Our Velocity’, one of those songs that would suddenly turn up in unexpected places such as soundtracking sports highlights on ITV. This would be grist to the Lloyd mill though, as film soundtracking is yet another of his accomplishments (there’s more about that on his Wikipedia page).
Assorted other projects aside, ‘Outside Notion’ is Lloyd’s third complete solo album, two years after ‘IOUOME’ and eleven after ‘Seeing Double’. Reading his resumé you might be expecting all manner of experimental wildness, building on the linear energies of Maximo Park and incorporating elements of artistically inspired improvisation and obscurities. What Duncan Lloyd wants to do though is just play his guitar, which he’s really quite good at, and the nine tracks on ‘Outside Notion’ are the sound of an accomplished talent keeping things accessible. The feedback intro to album opener ‘Historic Elements’ might lead an uninformed listener to expect a gritty noise-fest inspired by the Residents and Per Ubu, but the Lloyd sound is a relatively easy on the ear one, pitched more or less halfway between Richard Ashcroft and Prefab Sprout. Mellow, with hidden edges.
Second track ‘5 a.m. Eyes’ contains more than a hint of Lloyd’s Maximo Park past and it’s only two easy to picture bowler hatted Paul Smith declaiming the lyric over a more strident version of the tune, instead of the way more developed string arrangement that it actually has. ‘Planetarium’ is a more conventional number and the Richard Ashcroft comparison holds up here, the tone of the song, indeed its entire mood and particularly its resonant guitar playing suggest it would make an ideal choice of track for the Verve’s former frontman should he ever choose to use it.
The title track sways into something bordering on folk rock and Lloyd shares the lyric with longtime collaborator Sarah Suri, indeed it’s very much her voice that carries the words here. ‘Journey B’ sees the string quartet reappear with an instrumental that seems written for a documentary about steam railways in the Lake District while ’til The Fear Breaks’ has Lloyd going a bit West Coast or is perhaps a nod to another Lloyd, Cole that is. It also exemplifies Duncan Lloyd’s songwriting approach, with the barbed edges of his lyric partly hidden behind a verging on soporific musical backing, which is a bit more difficult to do than it might appear.
‘Outside Notion’ is more than a showcase for Duncan Lloyd’s various talents. He moves from genre to genre with ease, knows how to score an orchestral piece and is also reminding us of what a fine band Maximo Park were. I expect we’ll be hearing more from him sooner rather than later.