The Puddle: Playboys in the Bush (Fishrider)

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The Puddle: Weight of the Stars
The Puddle: Playboys in the Bush (Fishrider)

For those many of us who lost touch with Dunedin's the Puddle in the Nineties, last year's album The Shakespeare Monkey (a 2009 Best of Elsewhere album) came as quite a revelation for its literary lyricism and captivating alt.pop.

This one might not have that same frisson of (re)discovery, but it is no less an album for that: there is a skewed angularity to the music (from mock-pop to bent country on Rainbow Bridge Airlines, lovely sax from Nils Olsen on the gorgeous original ballad In Dreams), and George D. Henderson's gentle and sometimes shaky vocals have a warm and endearing fragility.

There's also humour too: the slow mechanical-metal grind of Valhalla starts "Sat'day morning in Valhalla, 1.30am, Thor drops his hammer [sound of a hammer dropping], picks it up again . . ." before launching into a nine minutes-plus shaggy dog, metalhead story about Norse gods.

Elsewhere of course the Puddle deliver alt.pop of the kind we associate with Dunedin of the Flying Nun years : the rolling Wise Dolls and the lyrical Monogamy and Christmas in the Country (cf. Chills/Sneaky Feelings), the jangle-pop of Sleepy People.

The strangely ethereal and too brief instrumental No Love No Hate brings matters to a close on quasi-classical note . . . before the pastoral, lightlydelic hidden track.

Over the long journey, this isn't as strong as The Shakespeare Monkey, but is further evidence that the Puddle are enjoying the kind of career high which other bands experience in their youth then lose. Henderson is confidently holding his ground. 

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