[17 April 2014]
They say that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. But what if it’s a creative duck? That’s the question I’m faced with on Duck Sauce’s debut album, Quack. There are a few things that I find interesting about this release before I even start listening to it. First, how long does it take to release an album after a hit as big as 2010’s “Barbara Streisand”? It was very puzzling to me, to say the least. Many a label would’ve been furious at the prospect of not cashing in on that much success. The second thing that makes me take a step back is the front cover, which is a picture of Mona Lisa with a beak on her face. What is so ironic about this album cover in conjunction with the album is that it isn’t supposed to take itself seriously, even though it’s pitched (and even hailed) as a ground-breaking creative mix between house and hip-hop. You automatically get that feeling with opener “Chariots of the Gods”, which pretty much sums up this entire album in one track: weird sound effects along with a detailed house beat and a shifting set of skits. The first skit is Duck Sauce’s take on the Bible. It sounds like heresy, but it’s completely enjoyable. And that’s why the album is so effortless at pulling you in straight away.
The tracks that follow clearly show why Duck Sauce have taken their time with their debut: they didn’t want every track to sound the same. Where “Chariots of the Gods” sounds like a Daft Punk remix, “Charlie Chazz and Rappin Ralph” takes you to a completely different place with a production that recalls the house craze of the ‘90s. The rap verses that occur on this album feel like they’ve been pulled from a late ‘80s hip-pop track all but forgotten, rather than a poorly written set of lines for a kids’ television commercial. The tracks “aNYway” and “Goody Two Shoes” feel the most organic, as it has Duck Sauce genuinely re-creating the sounds of the ‘70s and then updating it. The post-disco feel on the track is only helped by the vocal samples, and breakdowns help convey the authenticity of it all. “Radio Stereo” is very puzzling, as the sample used will be instantly recognizable by punk fans (The Members’ hit “Radio”). However, Duck Sauce don’t convey anything in the production that comes close to genres like rock, funk or new wave. Rather, Duck Sauce cleverly disguises it by using a club-friendly beat and then looping it over a set of horns whilst using the word “radio” as the entire chorus. It’s fun, energetic and easily chart-worthy. And I guess it should have the same appeal as “Barbra Streisand”.
Not everything is amazing with Duck Sauce, though. And no, I don’t mean eating the stuff. Three tracks in, and “It’s You” pops up. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t come across as productive or progressive either. The track feels rather like a demo or a very bland remix made to update the sound of a ‘50s pop group. Nothing on here is as annoying as the two tracks that follow “NRG”, a clear winner in terms of production and catchiness. Unlike “NRG”, which is easy to enjoy due to its hints of ‘80s synth-pop mixed in with modern drums and choice of rock guitar, “Everyone”, which features Teddy Toothpick, doesn’t have the same catchiness or likeability. The verses sound rather feeble in execution and the singing becomes really annoying. It’s almost off-key at several points and to top it all off, the production is at its least innovative for the pair of producers. The interlude that follows is the only one that actually links itself thematically to the following track, “Ring Me”. The main reason it’s the worst track on the album is due to the extreme lack of development within the track, even though there is a rather awesome breakdown for a second. The track is too boring to lift itself, riding on a set of piano chords, a telephone ring sound effect and an annoying chorus.
The most amazing thing about Quack, though, is the sheer amount of skits that were allowed to exist when the album was finally compiled. Even though the skits are really entertaining, they do become a bit tedious. But they help make the weaker tracks more enjoyable, like the completely uncalled for updated version of “Barbara Streisand”. Sounding more like a tribute-to-the-fans version, the remix does have more vocals and sounds less repetitive, but it suffers from a complete lack of focus and doesn’t sound as catchy as the radio edit the world over has come to love. But check out the skit afterward and I promise you’ll end up laughing. “Spandex” has nothing to do with its actual title. However, it easily takes you on a great ride with a breakdown halfway through the song that makes you think the song has finished, then starts to speed up extremely slowly. It’s ingenious and it adds some brevity to the track, which is one of the album’s more average-sounding songs. The closer, “Time Waits For No-One” is very similar to “NRG” in that it looks to the ‘80s in order to carry itself along. On this track, like “Radio Stereo”, Duck Sauce don’t try to edit the sample, nor do they try to let it reign free; they just throw the sample into a modern-day mixture of Guetta-style four on the floor dance beats, with the sample appearing in its purest form at the end of the track.
Duck Sauce have managed to create an album that doesn’t necessarily rely heavily on its lead single to boost the album’s prospects. Their lead single was released four years ago. There is much, much more to Quack than I expected. So, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. But if it’s a creative duck, it will quack slightly more creatively. Only with more silliness and nostalgia thrown in.