Tol-Puddle Martyrs – Flying in the Dark (2011)

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Loads of legendary bands reunite, but how many of them actually sustain the vitality and creativity that initially brought forth their acclaim? Not many, that is for sure. However, there are exceptions, and Tol-Puddle Martyrs are one of the few bands that are even better now than they were during their heyday. And that’s saying a mouthful and a half, due to the reality they were so utterly awesome to begin with.

Hailing from Bendigo, Australia, Tol-Puddle Martyrs met with much regional success in the latter part of the 1960s, having clasped the charts with tunes such as “Time Will Come,” “Social Cell,” and “Live Your Life.” The band’s compatible combination of driving Rolling Stones-styled blues rock and carefully conceived Beatlesque melodies packed a serious punch. Aside from flaunting a super groovy sound, Tol-Puddle Martyrs house a brilliant songwriter in singer and keyboardist Peter Rechter. Here’s a fellow who knows how to compose catchy ditties and has the insight to know exactly what to do with them as well.

Several years ago, Tol-Puddle Martyrs got back together, and since then they’ve recorded three excellent albums. Flying in the Dark, issued by Secretdeals, stands as the band’s latest effort, and like the preceding Psych-Out USA and A Celebrated Man, the emphasis is on hooky pop rockers. It is important to note, though, that Tol-Puddle Martyrs are not about nostalgia. Certain influences, of course, are apparent, but the band’s energy and approach is totally refreshing. Peter Rechter’s tunesmith skills are as potent as ever, while the Tol-Puddle Martyrs’ chemistry is simply stunning. Passion and excitement rule “Flying in the Dark,” gifting the material with a live and intimate feel.

Bleached with a snaky psychedelic bite, “Call Up the Queen” launches the disc off to dizzying heights, where “Zones,” “Perfect Day,” “I Won’t Forget,” and “Just Waiting” flicker with winning melodies and neat and nifty arrangements. Peter’s vocals, which boast visible resemblances to both John Lennon and Elvis Costello, are arrestingly lucid and assured, as his keyboards pump, dance and twirl with unabashed glee. Graham McCoy’s guitar riffs percolate and jangle with pleasure, Douglas Barker’s bass playing thrums and throbs with intent, and drummer James Cronin maintains a consistently steady and sturdy beat. Absolutely flawless.

A charming ode to Buddy Holly, “Painin’ In My Heart” ranks as another billion-dollar nugget featured on “Flying in the Dark,” along with the politically themed “Industrial Money” and the gleaming, glistening glare of “Zones.” Haunting and moving, the title track of the record reaches deep into the soul and refuses to leave, and “Just Waiting (Reprise)” is a peppy instrumental. Acres of jaunty breaks additionally arise in the songs, supplementing them with an element of surprise.

Promoting a bedazzling blend of garage-rocking power pop with frequent forays into new wave nirvana, Tol-Puddle Martyrs are always a joy to listen to. The band truly loves making music, and their commitment to their craft shines through on Flying in the Dark. Filled to the gills with tuneful treasures performed straight from the heart and gut, this is an album you’ll spin over and over again and never grow tired of.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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