You may be forgiven if you are unaware of the name Richard Duguay, but the Canadian musician (now residing in LA) has the rock n’ roll credentials ladies and gents. He first came to prominence as bassist and then guitarist for Canadian punk legends Personality Crisis in the early 80’s and went on to contribute guitars to Guns n’ Roses version of ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ in the early 90’s. He has spent the last 20 years in LA playing and recording, his most recent release was a concept album entitled ‘Bad Juju’, which was written and recorded with co-writer/guitar slinger Marc Floyd.

He now follows up that album with ‘Beautiful Decline’, which takes the same 70’s rock n’ roll influences, the street punk of Detroit and New York City, and adds psychedelic sonics and dynamic arrangements that promise to turn heads and make impressions that last.

The first impressions of ‘Beautiful Decline’ certainly do impress. If you dig the dark, theatrical rock of vintage Alice Cooper, the dangerous thrill of Iggy & The Stooges and the glamour of New York Dolls, then hold on to your sequined jacket baby, because you are in for a real cool time.

“I never met a sucker who didn’t have it coming” drawls Duguay over urgent beats and low-slung guitars on opener ‘Wasteland’. With more than a hint of Scandinavian leather it then descends into a cool as you like breakdown, before kicking ass back into a race to the climax. That’ll do nicely sir, I’m sold!

A shameless cover of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s ‘The Faith Healer’ follows. It is transformed into a more theatrical and OTT beast, one that you feel the mighty Coop would’ve done himself back in the day. Yeah, sorta Alice Cooper meets Bigelf here, as there is a trippy, psychedelic vibe going on.

The theatrical theme continues with the most excellent ‘Kid Stardust’. Pianos and mass vocals take charge over a character-based narrative. It seems there is more to Richard Duguay’s songwriting than meets the eye, as the arrangements and the dynamics are clever and well executed all over this album. I mean, ‘Prepare The Dogs Of War’ is a 6-minute epic with haunting female vocals, stabs of piano, multi sections of music and twangy, spaghetti western guitars. And that’s just the first of two 6-minute epics! More ambitious and glorious than the street punk cover art would lead you to believe. Even Duguay’s vocals here are as menacing as anything Alice, or even Marilyn Manson has concocted.

There are straight ahead rockers as well though. ‘Get In Line’ has a glam slam ride of a chorus with killer backing vocals and percussion, both thrilling in unison. Yet again, our songwriter fits in another crazy ass, mid-song breakdown that verges on something The Police would’ve done with the tune, before breaking back into that killer bridge that really hits hard coming out of that breakdown. A killer tune indeed.

Then the rifftastic ‘I Gotta Move’ gives off Hellacopters meets The Stooges vibes as sonically seductive guitars solo wildly over a killer chugging riff. Gang vocals are the icing on the cake of an album highlight.

Amongst the garage rock and the theatre are a couple of heartfelt acoustic moments worth mentioning. The emotive duet ‘Windows Walk’ screams Thunders/Palladin as Richard and his wife Paula Tiberius deliver a snippet of a song that is over seemingly as soon as it has begun. And album closer ‘Eyes Of Silence’ is a stripped-down affair with acoustic guitar and understated piano accompaniment. Again, the signature dynamics are at play with a stop here and there to add drama, and as it rides out on a tinkling of the ivories, the listener is left satisfied with a sense of completion and the desire to hit that play button once again.

With 11 songs that cover a wide spectrum of the rock n’ roll world, ‘Beautiful Decline’ is as ambitious as it is diverse. Each listen reveals more layers, as you come to realise it’s an album that is much more than the sum of its parts. Epic, theatrical rock with menacing undertones disguised as punky, garage rock. And lo and behold if Richard Duguay has seemingly come from nowhere and delivered one of the most ambitious and 70’s sounding rock albums of the year so far. Buy it before it sells out. 

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Author: Ben Hughes