Depending on your particular salad days, PUJOL might sound like Slade, AC/DC, Hanoi Rocks, Redd Kross, Smashing Pumpkins, Andrew WK, or Nobunny. In other words, sky-high glam-pop has clearly devolved into skuzzier iterations, and PUJOL (aka Daniel Pujol) is here to bring some stadium lazar lights back to the stumbling state of platform shoe glitter-rock.
Apparently this Nashvillian has been honing his hooks in basement shows and second bill dive bar appearances for nearly four years, but if the level of sugary songcraft on this platter is any indication, he will not stay cult cramped for long. Every song on Kludge sparkles with battling layers of crackling guitar, tinkling sounds, glittery guitar licks, snares like a 100 hands clapping, loads of harmonic back-ups vocals, crashing glass, uh, maybe even some lion growls, who knows. But it all coalesces over the album, never coming off like random ProTools trick trying. PUJOL make it sound like it’s all blasting out of a stadium, although if you pull out your binoculars, you’ll see a trash band down there having a ball.
Judas Booth slowly comes slumping in, building up to a singalong coda straight out of an ELO show circe ’78. Which if he stuck to that would get goofy quick, but he right away jumps into Manufactured Crisis Control, (“The old me and the new me are in a fist fight!”) which sounds like it could be right off the Village People’s forgotten new wave stab, Renaissance, and that’s a compliment. As is the fact he keeps his songs short, and the tunes are perfectly tracked too—a tact often neglected in our single streaming times. The shuffling Pitch Black is a classic third-song highlight, and quite simply the best guitar-pop song of the year so far. The fluttery Dark Haired Suitor and its warbly solo calming you down from the running in Circles, that comes straight at you like a fast Sweet tune given Adderal and told to go play outside for awhile.
Seriously, while listening to this, it’s sometimes shocking how catchy it is, especially considering how many little bits of tricks are zipping in and out of songs, not one element ever overstaying its welcome for even a second. Pujol’s higher register sugar-snarl is another twist that bends from indie pop expectations. Lyrically, Judas Booth talks of bouncing back after some tough times, and there are a few such sentiments of moving on to bigger and better things. And he flat out name-drops Freddy Mercury in No Words, so he’s an honest bloke. Otherwise, the lyrics mainly exist in Marc Bolan’s fifth ring of Saturn, surreal takes on 20-something heartbreak and finding salacious ways to alleviate it.
There remains an invigorating trash-rock center to it all. The clattering mash of melodies that run around this record require that you equal its energy, and many indie rock listeners would often rather be lulled in. Sacred Heart BFK, a song about “playing with my butterfly knife” offers a funny breather in the middle. Kludge loses just a touch of its Lichtenstein POW! towards the end, turning off into some stripped-back cracked country (Spooky Scary) before popping one last block of Double Bubble into its jaw on Youniverse, with sounds of fireworks exploding in the distance, some lovey-dovey lyrics, and Pujol and his pals cheering their endless summer, before a hidden, creaky birthday song at the end. Sure, some of the angsty apparitions that zoom in and out of this funhouse are wearing Bay City Rollers plaid suspenders and smell of a ’74 junkshop in London, but it all smatters around in ways that only our digital doohickeys could allow. 21st century, meet your new Noddy Holder.