The Brunettes

Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks

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An intriguing although not entirely successful blend of 1965 and 1981, the debut album by New Zealand's Brunettes starts brilliantly with the bubblegum mini-operetta "The Moon in June Stuff," a multi-part invention that mixes the free and swinging grace of a classic Gene Pitney or Shangri-Las single with a layer of hyper-self-aware irony common to post-punk teenagers who just discovered Phil Spector. Songwriter/producer Jonathan Bree and lead singer Heather Mansfield sound like they've digested decades' worth of bubblegum, echoes of everything from Joe Meek to the Apples in Stereo crop up in these songs, but the mixture of plinky synths and Burt Bacharach chords at the root of songs like "Talk to Jesus" or "End of the Runway" sounds refreshing and unique most of the time. The problem is that a few of the songs, like the gimmicky "Dancefloor" and the relentlessly name-dropping "Summer Love," sound a bit schematic, like you can tell which old records they've copped bits from. Most of the time, however, Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks is a guilt-free sugar rush. Redd Kross and John Southworth fans in particular take note.

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