Reviews Pujol Kludge



Daniel Pujol is prolific and ever changing. The leader of Pujol continues to release records at a rapid pace, successfully switching up his backing sounds in the process. While early material was a lot more garage in style, the overall tone on Kludge is quirky and rock-based, but it ranges from sauntering slower material (“Spooky Scary”) to minimalist electropop (“Small World”) to other distorted and playful tones. The recurring factor from early work to today is in voice, musically and lyrically. The songwriting is of a distinct style, built on direct and visual ideas, blending higher concept themes with pop culture imagery to unify a single trash culture statement. While tempos vary, it’s mostly a positive vibe rhythm with an ear for melody as the defining point of a song. If a label has to be slapped onto Kludge it would begrudgingly be indie-pop.

This is his second release for Saddle Creek and it’s a fair home. Though the label doesn’t release many other records with the dirty production favored by Pujol, the askew tone and melodic functions are a good pairing. Kludge is definitely softening the blow from earlier work, drawing on his lyricism more with a bit less punch from distortion. Opening “Judas Booth” has soothing back-up vocals and a sunshiney “I’m gonna make ‘em disappear” refrain. More to the point of the softer side of Pujol, “Sacred Harp BFK,” the seventh song on the LP, consistently reminds of Queen. At first, the comparison was startling, but the very next song (“No Words”) goes on to namedrop Freddie Mercury. Pujol has been listening to a lot of pop, and those masters of the form are bearing influence on Kludge. The back-up vocals on the chorus of “Manufactured Crisis Control” could likewise be compared, though as the song’s title notes, there’s always that subversive tone in the lyrics and a wobbling and powerful bass that cuts through the pop for an underlying harder edge. “No Words” fits in with earlier Pujol: chanty, rhythmic vocals and a sloppy garage base, seemingly a self-aware song about the overall tone of the new record.

While a decent song, the slide guitar “Spooky Scary” throws the album off pace toward its end and would probably be better served as a b-side instead of being included here. Things come to a close with the 8:39 minute tracked “Youniverse,” which symbolically ends (around the 6-minute mark) in a fireworks effect. It’s a fitting close to the slice of Americanism delivered over the previous 40 minutes: a dose of watermelon, hotdogs, and littered softball fields that fades into a distorted and psychedelic bonus track with a “happy birthday” refrain that sounds straight out of The Butthole Surfers playbook. It’s a fitting end, toning out the sugary pop tones and scrubbing the surface away to reveal a distorted and ugly core. Pujol has teased of pop songs and pep, but there’s always a distorted noisy mess beneath.

7.3 / 10Loren
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7.3 / 10

7.3 / 10

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