The Puddle – Playboys In The Bush (Fishrider) CD Review

I don’t know much about George Henderson, just that he wrote one of my all-time favourite songs: a slice of utter real-punk malevolence captured live on The Last Rumba LP on a performance by another brilliant wastrel, Kevin Hawkins (RIP).

I’ve heard that Henderson is somewhat of a legend in his native Dunedin, but that his wayward lifestyle has prevented mainstream success. On the evidence of Playboys In the Bush, this theory holds water.

This is the kind of lo-fi I’m happy to submit to. Right from the get-go, Henderson’s lyrics and delivery grab you by the short and curlies: unmoderated, direct, contentious, outrageous. The overall picture is of a slightly deranged individual, with his shaky, manic vocals reinforcing this raw art.

An unkind reviewer might mention the poor recording. This is not lo-fi as we once knew it; some instruments are clear in the mix, but everything’s out of proportion. The performances match, with their shambling, semi-improvisatory quality either putting up an impenetrable wall, or simply matching the rest.

Personally, I’m knocked out by talent this raw, art that doesn’t concede to any commercial or aesthetic considerations. Henderson and his ensemble turn amateurishness into an artform, whether they’re having a stab at classic ‘60s pop/psych, post-punk or something entirely more pensive.

There is a very bottom-of-the-world hopelessness about these songs, but in their own way, they’re great songs, and even, sometimes, pop songs: in ‘Monogomy’, there’s even a love song, of sorts.

Like a punk-edged Syd Barrett who has lost, then found himself again (while remaining seriously askew), George Henderson and his Puddle have managed to squeeze out a short but potent work. Sure, I’d love to hear what a better recording might have offered, but this will just have to do, for now. There’s nothing else quite like it. GARY STEEL

Sound = 2.5

Music = 3.5

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