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Album Review: Duke Special – Look Out Machines!

By on Tuesday, 14th April 2015 at 12:00 pm

Duke Special Look Out Machines coverDuke Special, aka Northern Irish songwriter Peter Wilson, has just unveiled his fourth studio album ‘Look Out Machines!’ via his second PledgeMusic campaign, which funded the album release as well as benefitting De Paul Ireland. On first listen, the album’s title struck me as a bit incongruous. ‘Look Out Machines!’ relies heavily on synthesised instrumental effects to achieve its dramatic and expansive sound, yet its overall effect is one of overwhelming human emotion. I haven’t quite worked out the puzzle behind that, but it is an interesting juxtaposition nevertheless.

Duke Special’s previous music has occasionally had a vaudevillian caricature quality to it, but with this new album, Wilson has evolved into a more serious and dramatic musical theatre sound. ‘Look Out Machines!’ shows the influence of his recent projects in that genre, including a production of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage and Her Children’ for the London National Theatre in 2009 and the completion of an unfinished musical by Kurt Weill.

The music on ‘Look Out Machines!’ is ambitious in terms of harmony and orchestration, but still maintains a basic pop accessibility. Grounded in melody and always fundamentally tied to Wilson’s eloquent lyrics, every song on the album centers around a memorable chorus. In opening track ‘Wingman’, the repeated line “oh my weightlessness, oh my restlessness” is gracefully expressed in the song’s instrumental arrangement, with ethereally soaring strings and backing vocals countering the ominous bass ostinato and percussion. ‘Step to the Magical’ contains the curious title phrase in its catchy chorus, between verses describing a mystical kaleidoscopic female: “spinning now, her skirts in circles, beautiful her carefree purpose”.

Thematically, the songs on ‘Look Out Machines!’ seem to address the end of a relationship, possibly the end of a love affair. But along with sadness and grief, there is also a sense of newfound freedom and optimism. The title track talks about overcoming “oppression of the heart”, particularly in the lyrical refrain “what’s gone is gone, so drop the bomb / this is a new world, this is a new world”. The album’s first quiet moment comes in the elegant and understated ‘Statues’, where the sense of poignant stillness is drawn out in the piano melody and shimmering percussion as Wilson theatrically intones the line “there will one day come a time, your name won’t shiver down my spine”.

A constant sense of deep internal conflict runs through the heart of the album, but Wilson doesn’t attempt to bring it to a neat resolution. His lyrics on outstanding track ‘In a Dive’ patently state “certainty’s a city I decided I should leave”, yet the music feels determined and assured. The edgy ‘Son of the Left Hand’ bravely faces an ominous feeling of anticipation in its chorus, “My body rebels / angel or devil, I never could tell / maybe I’m meant for the clutches of Hell / here I stand, son of the left hand.” Previously featured singles ‘Elephant Graveyard’ and ‘Nail on the Head’ are similarly evocative of unresolved anguish. Despite that, the album ends with a sense of calm acceptance and forward motion with the gentle strings and echoing chorus of ‘Domino’: “one thing leads into another, row on row / this hollow tree still needs a brother”.

‘Look Out Machines!’ is a powerful change of direction for Duke Special, informed by the depth and breadth of his work outside the solo artist realm. Musically expansive and exquisitely personal, the album’s immediacy demands attention and opens its listener’s ears for a myriad of future possibilities.


Duke Special’s fourth studio album ‘Look Out Machines!’ is available now via Stranger Records. Duke Special is currently on tour in the UK in support of the album; previous TGTF coverage of Duke Special is right this way.


Video of the Moment #1771: Duke Special

By on Wednesday, 25th March 2015 at 6:00 pm

Duke Special has revealed the promo video for a new single to his upcoming album ‘Look Out Machines!’, which will drop the 6th of April on Stranger Records. ‘Nail on the Head’ has an interesting driving rhythm, with the video seeing Peter Wilson in a dilapidated house and playing a squeeze box. Watch it below.

Previous coverage of Duke Special on TGTF is this way.



Duke Special / March, April and May 2015 UK/Irish Tour

By on Friday, 19th December 2014 at 8:30 am

Northern Irish singer/songwriter Duke Special has just unveiled a lengthy list of UK and Irish tour dates for next spring in anticipation of his upcoming album ‘Look Out Machines’. The album is due for release in 2015 via Duke Special’s current PledgeMusic campaign, but he’s already released a video for its first single ‘Elephant Graveyard’, which you can view below the tour date listing.

Prior to his spring live dates, Duke Special will take on an extensive tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland starting in January; all of those dates are listed on his official Web site. Previous TGTF coverage of Duke Special can be found here.

Support for Duke Special’s March UK tour dates will be provided by London singer/songwriter Paul Cook and The Chronicles. Tickets for the following shows are available now.

Wednesday 11th March 2015 – Shrewsbury Henry Tudor House
Thursday 12th March 2015 – Nottingham Glee Club
Friday 13th March 2015 – Liverpool East Village Arts Club
Saturday 14th March 2015 – Wrexham Glyndwr University
Sunday 15th March 2015 – Birmingham Glee Club
Tuesday 17th March 2015 – Oxford Academy
Wednesday 18th March 2015 – Exeter Phoenix
Thursday 19th March 2015 – Bristol St George’s and the Folk House
Friday 20th March 2015 – Milton Keynes Stables
Saturday 21st March 2015 – Cambridge Junction 2
Wednesday 15th April 2015 – Gloucester Guildhall
Thursday 16th April 2015 – Bury Met
Friday 17th April 2015 – Edinburgh Electric Circus
Saturday 18th April 2015 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Sunday 19th April 2015 – Gateshead Sage
Tuesday 21st April 2015 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Wednesday 22nd April 2015 – Norwich Waterfront
Thursday 23rd April 2015 – Brighton Komedia
Friday 24th April 2015 – Southampton Talking Heads
Saturday 25th April 2015 – Reading Bowery District
Sunday 26th April 2015 – Cardiff Globe
Wednesday 13th May 2015 – London Islington Assembly Hall
Friday 15th May 2015 – Belfast Mandela Hall
Saturday 16th May 2015 – Dublin Vicar Street



Album Review: Duke Special – The Stage, A Book, & the Silver Screen

By on Tuesday, 23rd February 2010 at 12:00 pm

Talented Irish singer-songwriter Duke Special (real name Peter Wilson) has amassed quite a following with his previous albums ‘Songs from the Deep Forest’ and ‘I Never Thought This Day Would Come.’ In fact, when he created a Pledge Music account to raise money for his latest project, he far exceeded his goal. On 8th March 2010, Special will not only release a new album, he will release three! When combined together into a 3-CD set, they are referred to as ‘The Stage, A Book & the Silver Screen,’ but each of the 3 discs has a different purpose and a different sound. Writing and performing songs for musicals goes well with Special’s theatrical tendencies, so the result is something truly special (pardon the pun) that is well worth a listen.

The first disc, ‘Mother Courage and Her Children,’ contains studio versions of the songs Special wrote (with German dramatist Bertolt Brecht’s words) for the recent production of the famous anti-war play Mother Courage & Her Children at the National Theatre in London. Duke performed these songs on stage between September and December of last year. Not surprisingly, this album is the most theatrical of the three, with powerful vocals and dramatic music, complete with horns and strings. One of the highlights of the album is ‘Eilif (Song About the Soldier and His Wife),’ a song whose playful sound stands in stark contrast to it’s subject matter. Listening to the music alone, you wouldn’t expect to hear lyrics like “off goes her man / he will write when he can / and women have wept since the world first began” and “how quickly you’ll fall / oh God, help us all / a soldier should never get married.”

Continue reading Album Review: Duke Special – The Stage, A Book, & the Silver Screen


Daily MP3 #37: Duke Special

By on Thursday, 16th April 2009 at 10:00 am

Next Monday, 20th April, Duke Special will release a new album, I Never Thought This Day Would Come. Full of moments of beauty and hope juxtaposed with a dark, brooding edge it sounds amazing from these THREE free tracks we have for you below.

MP3: “Those Proverbs We Made in the Winter Must End” (Duke Special / Bernard Butler) produced, co-written and co-played by Bernard Butler
MP3: “I Feel For You” (Prince cover but made famous by Chaka Kahn)
MP3: “Low”

Top photo comes from Mr. Ush’s flickr stream, under the creative commons license.


Duke Special / April 2009 UK Tour

By on Monday, 26th January 2009 at 9:10 am

Duke SpecialThe amazingly talented Duke Special has announced a string of dates for the spring around the UK.

The 9 shows below are all we can find at the moment, though there may well be more to come. Have we missed some? Tell us in the comments below.

Tickets are on sale now, priced at £12.50 for each date.

Thursday 23rd April 2009 – Norwich Waterfront
Saturday 25th April 2009 – Derby Royal
Sunday 26th April 2009 – Bristol Thekla
Monday 27th April 2009 – Birmingham Irish Club
Tuesday 28th April 2009 – London Scala
Wednesday 29th April 2009 – Leeds Cockpit
Thursday 30th April 2009 – Manchester University
Saturday 2nd May 2009 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Monday 4th May 2009 – Newcastle Northumbria University

Top photo comes from Mr. Ush’s flickr stream, under the creative commons license. logoTo find tickets, we suggest you try using Needtickets. offers you the most comprehensive ticket service in the UK. With one click you can search every nationwide online ticket agent and as a result you can find tickets for any live music event that can be booked online. Every ticket is 100% guaranteed as only offers links to official agents.


About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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