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The Fuzzies - Album Review: Cupid

15 Nov 2023 // A review by Trevor Faville

The Fuzzies are a three-piece self-described ‘Alternative pop trio’ from Auckland. Collectively Niki Maera (Mary), Kelly Michael (Tabula Rasa, Enshrine) and Andrew Maitai (Powertool Records, Joed Out) bring the momentum of considerable experience into the music on this album. The songs for Cupid have evolved through an extensive process of live performances which, while certainly something of a ‘time honoured’ method for presenting and refining new music, is plainly an essential part of how this album came to be.

The Fuzzies approach has been to combine a clearly defined set of musical elements combined into a precise overall effect. The tunes are carefully constructed and arranged / edited so that the music is lean and concise, with no wasted notes or time. Melody, instrumental textures and song structures are combined skilfully and clearly this is the work of steady and mature hands.

The elements in question include: a solid foundation of 8th note rhythms on Hi Hat, floor tom and bass guitar punctuated with the most solid of backbeats on the snare. The guitar alternates arpeggiated chord patterns with ‘big chorus’ chords and - with the clue being in the band name - it's safe to say that the fuzzbox gets a solid workout throughout his album. Over the top comes a vocal approach that alternates Kelly Michael's rhythmic, kind of spoken word approach - reminiscent perhaps of Jonathan Richmond, Black Francis or Bill Carter - which alternates with the melodic approach of Niki Maera, whose work with Mary is a clear stylistic antecedent.

It would be fair to say that there is quite a clear philosophical/stylistic approach here. If one were to draw a line straight back through ‘that’ 80’s Dunedin guitar band sound, and back further through the Modern Lovers to the Velvets, you should get a clear sense of the context where The Fuzzies are coming from in terms of both the sound and the creative approach. A rich musical tradition, to be sure.

The sound as such is very ‘organic.’ The production approach of recording to analogue tape shouldn't really be of note, but the relative rarity of this approach genuinely adds something to the listening experience. The drum sound in particular - that snare drum - jumps right out at you and the recording definitely finds the warmth and nuance in Michael's voice in particular. There is a discernible sense of clarity and space in the whole sound and Darren McShane deserves credit for such a sympathetic and sensitive recording and production approach.

Two representative tracks: Delighted To just squeaks over the three-minute mark and it makes the most of a focused and precise rhythm section, allowing Maera to shape and weave melodic lines with a deft and sure touch. There is just the right amount of dynamic build as a structural element as well.

Slip Stream has all the presence and effect of a live recording from a band that has tested this song through repeated gigging. It's super tight and one is reminded of how this approach made the songs on the first Talking Heads albums sound so effective. “Minimalistic” is both the right and wrong way to describe this song, given the combination of relatively few key elements into a really cohesive and powerful whole.

Cupid is a collection of songs that represent not only a musical style, but an approach to making music. It's a highly distinctive, cohesive and assured album.

 

About The Fuzzies

The Fuzzies are an alternative pop trio with more hooks than a chilli barb. Named after their big fuzzy tones, they are no slouches in the songwriting department either, as you can hear on their debut album Cupid.

Led alternately by the vocals and songwriting of Niki Maera (Mary) and Kelly Michael (Tabula Rasa, Enshrine), with Andrew Maitai (Powertool Records, Joed Out) on drums, they mix warm fuzzies with darker undertones to create their own brand of classic indie-pop.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Fuzzies

Releases

Cupid
Year: 2023
Type: Album

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