The Pukka Orchestra

Pukka Orchestra

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The Pukka Orchestra's first album shows them to be a band with plenty of new wave pop smarts in the style of, say, Graham Parker or Tom Robinson; in fact, the hit off Pukka Orchestra was a cover of Robinson's "Listen to the Radio," here given a somewhat cheerier reading than the more doom-laden original version (when it was known as "Atmospherics"). The Pukka Orchestra stay true to the spirit of Robinson's song, however, and as a result come up with a uniquely winning pop record about the drudgery of life in a communist country. Elsewhere, the band offers up a few original songs that are just as good as "Radio," including the literate, lovelorn lament "Might As Well Be on Mars"; the memorable "Cherry Beach Express," a scathing attack on the Toronto police force; and "Rubber Girl," an accordion-laced ballad directed to a blow-up love doll. Beyond these songs (all of which were released as singles), things get a little spotty, however, as the selections range from good, straightforward new wave rockers ("Power Cut") to filler ("The Deserter," a recitation) to at least one outright misfire (the abrasive "Flies," which seems to have wandered in from another record). Still, there are enough worthwhile moments on this release to recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the hit single or to anyone with an interest in '80s alternative pop in general. It's just a shame The Pukka Orchestra weren't able to consolidate their strengths and come up with a top-to-bottom winner. [Pukka Orchestra was re-released on CD by Koch in 2000.]

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