Puzzle Gut

Puzzle Gut

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Puzzle Gut Review

by Matthew Greenwald

One of the brightest hopes to emerge from the late-'90s Los Angeles hard rock scene, Puzzle Gut's no-nonsense, high-octane debut album is something of a lost classic amongst the genre. Fueled by dark, evocative lyrics and an overall aural ruggedness, the band rips through 12 original songs here, barely allowing the listener ample chance to breathe. Unlike many of the bands to emerge from this scene, Puzzle Gut's semi-surrealistic lyrics are well crafted to the point that the listeners will find themselves doing psychic second glances at the songs as they rush by. There is a discernible film noir sensibility here, yet this in no way gets in the way of the frankly erotic statements, which are aimed at the heart and libido of rock & roll. But it's the instrumental power of the trio that will most likely strike the listener first. The rhythm section of Pat Fontane (bass guitar) and Joe Shapiro (drums) give new meaning to the term "in the pocket," as the two lock in so tightly that it gives the sensation of a piano wire strung so taught that it will likely break at any moment. Atop their rhythmic onslaught on such standouts as "The Cow" and the beguiling opening track "Metamorphosis" is guitarist/vocalist Lance Bulen, whose guitar work serves the songs and recordings more than just delivering tired histrionics, a trait which tended to be the downfall of many bands of this ilk. Not to say that he doesn't have the ability to stretch out for some lyrical solos -- "The Cow," in fact, features a particularly intense and bruising psychedelic-inspired solo. His vocal performance is equally stirring, emoting a sort of heavy metal exorcism throughout. But the fact that the trio plays as one instrument is the band's main appeal, and this is spotlighted on virtually all of the cuts. The album ends on a delightfully rustic, dark note with the stark, haunting "Bones," which evokes a certain Louisiana/Delta spirituality that would actually fit in the Dr. John songbook. Overall, one of the best debut albums of the period.

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