Having dallied with Xenomania’s Brian Higgins for their poppy, patchy, yet commendably risky sixth album Stay Together (2016), the Leeds lads return to the indie arms of Ben H Allen, producer of their fifth, Education, Education, Education & War and albums by Deerhunter and Animal Collective. Duck crashlands in as confused a space as that might suggest; it’s a very mainstream record, but doesn’t sound sure that it wants to be. The fun-for-all-the-family positivity of Northern Holiday and the northern soul-flavoured parp and punch of People Know How to Love One Another stumble hard on former The Voice judge Ricky Wilson’s dead-eyed delivery. When he ups the rock snarl, as on The Only Ones, it’s even worse.
What fits the band best, as always, is slightly skewed but comforting solid indie rock like the marketing-pun-laden love song Target Market, with its oddly stoned 70s singer-songwriter feel, or the old-school-Kaisers rigid rhythms of Work or Don’t Just Stand There. There’s plenty of that here for the faithful, but few surprises – the obligatory evil-internet track, Record Collection, sports thunderingly basic retro-futuristic keys. Kudos is due, though, for rhyming “hidden agenda” with “credenza”, for apparently no reason.