Puzzle

dada

IRS, 1992

http://www.7horsemusic.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/10/2016

Nineties music buffs like me vaguely remember dada’s one semi-hit single “Dizz Knee Land,” a fine if not entirely necessary slice of early-decade alternative rock. Like a lot of ‘90s one-hit alt-rock wonders, there’s more to the disc than the one song, although the sound is a little closer suited to the middle of the decade when the Gin Blossoms, Candlebox, and the Presidents Of The United States Of America were commercially successful. One wonders if dada would have seen more success – or at least exposure – had this disc come out a bit later.

Part of the issue with Puzzle is that much of it is rather faceless, the kind of alternative-inspired rock that sounds right but doesn’t quite give you a glimpse of the band’s personality. Their offbeat, adolescent humor comes through on the woozy spoken road trip story “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” which approaches Pixies in its gonzo rantings-meets-noise combination, “Dizz Knee Land” and the Bo Diddley-esque chunky rhythms of “Posters.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Unlike other serious alt-rockers of this time period, dada is not afraid to peel off guitar solos and riffs in unexpected places, such as the extended axe-hero introduction to “Dim,” the title song and the middle part of “Who You Are,” which mines a rich melodic vein and layered voices to create a sublimely affecting song. “Puzzle” arrives as the climax of the disc, taking its sweet time teasing the listener with a long bass introduction topped with quiet guitar squalls and the layered voices before exploding into a wordless chorus about two minutes in.

Although the strong alt-rock influence guides this disc, there’s an undercurrent of country and folk in the L.A. trio’s harmony singing and some of the guitar lines, such as on the dull closer “Moon,” the richly complex “Mary Sunshine Rain” (which suggests another career path had “Dizz Knee Land” not been a hit, bringing Blackfoot’s classic “Train, Train” and a hint of Jimmy Page to mind), and the six-minute opener “Dorina.” That song lopes into its introduction with all the swagger and purpose of a Saturday night at the bar, morphs into a standard country rocker with room for two long guitar solos, then unexpectedly moves into a lovely closing section in the final two minutes with touches of psychedelia and falsetto singing while the guitar, again, grows in stature.

Of all the songs, “Dorina” and “Mary Sunshine Rain” are the best, giving a sense of false hope of what the rest of the disc will sound like, and those two plus “Puzzle” showcase a confident approach that is quite impressive for a debut. Pity that songs like “Timothy,” “Surround,” “Dog,” “Moon” and “Posters” (what, were the guys naming whatever they could see from their bedroom window?) clog up half the disc, killing whatever momentum the best songs build up.

Still, although it may not qualify as a lost classic, Puzzle is well worth seeking out for its highlights and for busting the myth that “Dizz Knee Land” was the best these guys had to offer. Not by a long shot.

Rating: B-

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