29 Mar 2023

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Hans Pucket - Album Review: No Drama

21 Nov 2022 // A review by Nicholas Clark
Wellington four-piece Hans Pucket is the kind of band you really should get into now (if you haven’t already) and see live before they become massive. That is, if the world is fair and allows these musicians to succeed at their art form because they really are incredibly good at what they do - and that’s writing beautiful, clever, unusual songs that seem to be for and inspired by uncertain times.

There’s a type of precariousness to their music; a post-modern condition of nervousness if you will, that creates these weird little dance songs that can be utterly disarming one minute and then chop your head off the next. And then they might croon into your ear sweetly while holding the disembodied head. It's that kind of a record...

With this, their first full length album after some successful EPs (including a bonafide Christmas release), they have solidified their place in the contemporary music environment of Wellington and the country. Dare I say it, Australasia also. It's easy to see how they won the Best Group at the Student Radio Network awards recently because they write the type of agitated, anxiety inspired indie rock that gets people moving, listening and coming out to venues. The sweet melodies of twin brothers Oliver (guitar) and Callum Devlin (bass) are tempered by the (sometimes) frantic drumming of Jonathan Nott and it is all enriched by the talents of multi-instrumentalist Callum Passels (who also wrote the horn arrangements – that’s right, the album has trumpets too. And strings. And piano. Sorry for those who were expecting a punky release...)

The album was recorded at Jonathan Pearce of The Beths’ Auckland studio, while his bandmate Benjamin Sinclair added string arrangements and Beths singer Elizabeth Stokes sang some backing vocals. It’s a rich cake they’ve made here. But despite this, Sargent Peppers this is not.

“Rather than being a Steely Dan studio band, our intention was to make songs that are fun to play live,” says Oliver Devlin. That’s how these songs sound, like they would absolutely rock live. That is if they can fit everyone involved on one stage.

The band reminds me of Franz Ferdinand first and foremost, but much of that is from the abrasive guitar tone and how it transforms into something quite danceable when played in short, strong staccato bursts. The group also seems a little like 2000’s bands such as Keane and the Kaiser Chiefs. But apart from those influences, the band appears to have a firm understanding of disco with some elements of the Bee Gees, ABBA and KC & The Sunshine Band shining through. There’s something else too: an awareness of musical theatre and I wouldn’t be surprised if the members aren’t massive fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber. There is a flair for the dramatic that only comes from studying and then emulating the greats. The finest form of flattery.

The album starts with My Brain is a Vacant Space beginning with a reversed sample, a funky bass line and what sounds like the Rainbow Machine from Earthquaker Devices. The song starts and stops, features some odd note choices, yet somehow it all works perfectly. “My brain is a vacant space, sometimes I don’t have a lot to say, I’ll tell you something that you’ve heard before, you’re only with me cause you’re feeling bored”. It’s a strange way to start an album as creative as this – feigning a lack of brain activity and accusing a lover of being bored. There’s just enough interesting and unexpected melodies and abrasive overdrive on the guitar to place the song a little away from complete pop. It’s got just the right amount of grit and wackiness.

You Must Chill is great single material with its ascending guitar lines and harmonized vocals. A perfect little gem. I especially like the complex rhythm on the chorus as the song title is sung like a mantra three times.

Misery Loves Company starts with a funky little drum fill, then a flute enters (which reminds me of earlier single Fuck My Life with the saxophone outro). This song and others are reminiscent of Kiwi band Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I hear a Prince influence too. There’s a fantastic little dirty guitar line in the bridge while lyrics reminiscing about high school are sung – something about skipping classes and breaking glasses. The dramatic flute melody builds until the song reduces back down to a bass line. “Oh please... I got work, I need sleep, please quit messaging me, what kind of company are we?” It's the perfect modern lyric to whatever the song is about. I’m not sure exactly what that is, but the lyrics are perfect, trust me.

No Drama has a bona-fide string section which sounds a lot like Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles, but the lyrics “I let myself get lost” somehow changes the vibe. Staccato guitar lines stab with funky precision amid complex percussion.

Honey has an unusual piano riff to start it off, which then melts into a verse that Father John Misty might sing. There’s a clarinet and some strings outlining a glorious chord progression that makes for a completely original song. It’s uplifting and dramatic even if the lyrics aren’t. Maybe that’s the idea.

The Square has a kind of hippie-indie feel like something the Fleet Foxes or Group Love might write. The lyrics “let me tell you how I feel, ... you're expecting me to be quiet and polite, I could create chaos in your life” are so sweetly delivered you might be excused from misunderstanding the message.

The most rocking track on the release is Bankrupt a track brimming with punk rock energy, but even here there is a joyful abandon to be found and enough strange notes to create some interesting tension. They sing “I don’t know what I’m doing” but I very much doubt that. At least in terms of writing songs. They know exactly what they’re doing.

Kiss The Moon is a gentle lullaby. It reminds me of the best parts of The Shins. Drag Me Through Your Heart is splendid pop.

The whole album ends with I’m Not Opposed To which has the coolest lyrics in the whole release: “open my skull up to your mind, ...I’m not supposed to, I’m not opposed to”. The song sort of seems to be about having negative thoughts or preconceived ideas about people, like labels we all use and thought patterns or categories we can’t help but utilise. Again, post-modern concerns. There is some beautiful singing followed by a heavily effected guitar solo and the song, (and album) ends gloriously.

It’s hard to find a way to critique this. Perhaps that’s due to the band being a little bit weird (after all, their Christmas single was called I Don't Know What To Get You For Christmas (Do I Really Love You?)) and when this is the case, a few weird notes, noises and rhythmic choices are par for the course as opposed to something that might upset a more pop orientated release that is aiming for radio-friendly unit shifting. As far as I’m concerned, the oddness makes the album interesting and, for lack of a better word, perfect.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Hans Pucket

Hans Pucket bring an energetic and eclectic set of tunes, featuring three part harmonies, solid power-pop riffs and real lyrics. Formed by twin brothers Oli and Callum Devlin, drummer Jono Nott (ONONO, Broods) the band grew out of a love for classic 60's pop, the earnest melodies of musical theatre, and the solid grooves of 70s disco. In 2018 they delivered their debut Eczema - a collection of addictive, cleverly crafted and heartfelt jams. Recently expanded to four members with the multi-instrumental talents of Callum Passells, the band is in the final stages of recording their second full length album.

"If you prefer your guitar pop with a wry and personal spin on the human condition, you could do worse than listen to Hans Pucket” - (Nick Bollinger, The Sampler RNZ)

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Hans Pucket


No Drama
Year: 2022
Type: Album
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Year: 2016
Type: EP
Hans Pucket
Year: 2014
Type: Album

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