Puzzled // Puzzled
Hair Growth Records
Recommended Track: I’ll See You Again
“Ha! Puzzled, the band name fits, that’s what they all must have been feeling when they were recording,” is how I imagine Statler and Waldorf of the Muppets reviewing the self-titled debut release of the Oakland pop-punk trio. While imaginary puppet reviewers do not have much authority in reviewing indie-pseudo surf pop, their gut reactions are not far off base.
Oakland is a town in the Bay Area that has been defined by musical duality, a development wherein any musical movement/innovation must naturally dull itself to equilibrium. For every Tupac and Digital Underground there is an MC Hammer, for every Operation Ivy there is a Third Eye Blind. The Bay Area tape releasing scene is no different: we have Meat Market and we have Puzzled.
The tape starts off with “Mario”, where the lead singer gives his best Adam Green impression and asks, “Where you gonna go Mario?/ Where you gonna be a Luigi?” While I am no hater of nonsense lyrics, especially in a genre that often takes itself to seriously, “Is it level seven where they take us to Heaven?” is simply lazy, and really sets the tone for the rest of the record.
While picking on the recording quality is a little unfair for a small label “lo-fi” band, Puzzled is uniquely annoying. All the guitar parts are squeaky-clean variations of the first riff on the tape, while the backing drums seem to have been recorded on an audience member’s Smartphone at one of their shows.
The redeeming qualities of this release come in the catchy tracks “I’ll See You Again” and “Shoe Song” where even the deaf squirrel vocals find a tune.
Puzzled showed us that the fifth derivative of the Beach Boys and Mr. T Experience ultimately does not equal pop or punk, it becomes whatever this is. My advice would be to distort your guitar and vox a bit, maybe start a metal band; this just doesn’t seem to be the genre for you.