Michael McDowell - Blitz Magazine
CDs -- NEW RELEASES -- THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
Tol-Puddle Martyrs - "Flying in the Dark, Christmas Dreams".
In the band’s 2009 A Celebrated Man album, Tol-Puddle Martyrs founder, keyboardsman, lead vocalist and principal architect, Peter Rechter succinctly articulated his position on matters of social concern via the track, Pocket Paradise.
“When we find something, or some way of quality that truly works for the betterment of people, don't interfere and change it”, Rechter said at that time.
However, in the two years since the release of that album, Rechter has nonetheless found a cause that has inspired him to weigh in musically. The Melbourne, Victoria band’s latest release, Flying In The Dark is dedicated as to “Fight For Sight”, Rechter’s campaign against Nonarteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION), or a Stroke of the Optic Nerve. The disease is believed to affect more than ten thousand individuals annually.
To that effect, the title track serves a dual purpose. Not only is it an apt metaphor for the cause at hand, it also serves as a memorial for the late rock and roll pioneer Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holly, who would have celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday in September 2011.
Therein lies one of the Tol-Puddle Martyrs’ key strengths, which is Rechter’s ability to champion his various causes while reiterating his passion for the garage rock that has served him well since the release of the band’s signature track, Time Will Come (Spiral K.J.1937) in 1968. That he succeeds handsomely herein with upbeat and charismatic takes on such potentially divisive fare as corporate avarice (Industrial Money) and ecology (Zones) merely underscores the point.
This is not to infer that Rechter has opted for an all subjective platform. To wit, Reasons, with its Raining In My Heart-like simulated string arrangement, reiterates Buddy Holly’s ongoing impact on his work. Likewise, Spooky Movie presents a fascinating variation on a theme once explored by such diverse artists as the Olympics and Roy Clark and delivers it in fine garage rock fashion. In turn, the somewhat wry Spend A Little Time recalls Rechter’s own mid-career adventures as front man of the Secrets.
As a whole, Flying In The Dark represents several key developments in the band’s legacy. While the album is first and foremost a vehicle for Rechter’s musical mission statement (and rightly so), it is nonetheless the first Tol-Puddle Martyrs release to reflect a greater participation in the creative process by the band as a whole. To that effect, although long time guitarist Graham McCoy remains on board, the band has undergone two personnel changes since the release of A Celebrated Man, with Douglas Barker succeeding Michael Harold on bass and James Cronin taking over percussion responsibilities from Ian Langford.
With all concerned seemingly endeavoring to raise the collective personality quotient, Rechter has responded in kind with some of his most engaging songwriting, arranging and vocalizing to date. To that effect, his trademark vocal parallels to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Baroques lead vocalist Jay Borkenhagen follow suit by complementing his own band’s sublime mix of psychedelia and classic verse, chorus and bridge perfectly.
As is the case with such still active veteran greats as the Electric Prunes, Danny and the Juniors and Mike and the Ravens, the Tol-Puddle Martyrs are currently producing some of the best work of their career. Rechter drives the point home with the just released Christmas single, Christmas Dreams, which at once showcases the band’s flair for original material within a genre that has found such attributes in short supply in recent years, while not losing perspective on the meaning of the holiday itself. Once again, Rechter’s flair for a strong hook and sympathetic arrangement serves him well.
Indeed, as both the Christmas single and the Flying In The Dark album demonstrate in abundance, the Tol-Puddle Martyrs are not only continuing to deliver at optimum level, like their aforementioned still active fellow pioneers, the band continues to produce some of the most worthwhile music of the twenty-first century to date. In that respect, their 1968 prophecy has at last been fulfilled, in that their time has come.
Flying in the dark
Review by Mike Korbik:
This band hasn`t attracted my attention so far. That`s why I have to go in greater detail now. In the mid-60s there was a band in Bendigo, Australia called „Peter & the Silhouettes, who had released a typical Garage beat track on a compilation LP with the song „Claudette Jones“.
In 1967 Peter & the Silhouettes changed their name into „The Tol-Puddle Martyrs“, named after a group of british farm workers, who were deported in 1834 to Australia because of union activities.
This band released a brilliant Psych Beat Single („Time will come) and one year later another single
„Love your Life“, which could easily have been written by Ray Davies. I didn`t know both singles so far, but a Reissue EP with all 4 Sixties recordings of the Tol-Puddle-Martyrs is already on the way to my home now.
Peter Rechter, the organ player and singer of the band, later went on with the band „The Secrets“. But some years ago he reactivated the name "Tol-Puddle-Martyrs", he put out a compilation with old and news songs on CD and after all in 2009 a brandnew album was released under the title „A celebrated man“. I already had had this CD in my CD-player two years ago. But now i cannot find it anymore. Norb Payr from Vienna was so kind to send me a copy of it together with the actual album „Flying in the dark“.
By the way, the antecessor „A celebrated man“ was declared as the album of the year in 2009 by Mike McDowell (Blitz magazine). Well, personally I wouldn`t say so, but it is definitely a record quite worthy to listen to, with 12 tracks all in all. It is clearly rooted in the Sixties beat Pop style, also if one can recognize the genesis of the record in these days. You can hear catchy and pleasing songs there. The whole work is very nice and it is clearly inspired by The Kinks and The Hollies at the end of the 60s.
For me personally there is some lack of rough edges. The same is valid for the actual album, but here it doesn`t bother me no more. Peter Rechter has found his appropriate way of expressing himself. The production has been more refined. Gently you can hear the Psych Pop of the late Sixties again.
Beside The Kinks and The Hollies now i can also hear the British Kaleidoscope, for example.
Generally this record sounds British and Sixties orientated in such a way, that only the lyrics sometimes show an indication about the quite actual development of the songs and recordings.
It is far away from reminiscing about nostalgic memories. The band transports approved and familiar sounds from a gone decade into the present. It is not necessary to highlight songs in particular. The complete album with its 16 tracks is consistently successful, and at the end of the record you like to press the repeat button again.
Only if I have to decide, which representative song I will play in a Radio Show, then i choose the song „Just waiting“. With its captivating melody and the irresistible and concise organ riff it is some kind of an „instant hit“. Peter Rechter must have anticipated that, because he has put the instrumental version of that song at the end of the album again. ****
Tol-Puddle Martyrs – Flying in the Dark (2011)
by Beverly Paterson
Loads of legendary bands reunite, but how many of them actually sustain the vitality and creativity that initially brought forth their acclaim? Not many, that is for sure. However, there are exceptions, and Tol-Puddle Martyrs are one of the few bands that are even better now than they were during their heyday. And that’s saying a mouthful and a half, due to the reality they were so utterly awesome to begin with.
Hailing from Bendigo, Australia, Tol-Puddle Martyrs met with much regional success in the latter part of the 1960s, having clasped the charts with tunes such as “Time Will Come,” “Social Cell,” and “Live Your Life.” The band’s compatible combination of driving Rolling Stones-styled blues rock and carefully conceived Beatlesque melodies packed a serious punch. Aside from flaunting a super groovy sound, Tol-Puddle Martyrs house a brilliant songwriter in singer and keyboardist Peter Rechter. Here’s a fellow who knows how to compose catchy ditties and has the insight to know exactly what to do with them as well.
Several years ago, Tol-Puddle Martyrs got back together, and since then they’ve recorded three excellent albums. Flying in the Dark, issued by Secretdeals, stands as the band’s latest effort, and like its predecessors, Psych-Out USA and A Celebrated Man, the emphasis is on hooky pop rockers. It is important to note though, that Tol-Puddle Martyrs are not about nostalgia. Certain influences, of course, are apparent, but the band’s energy and approach is totally refreshing. Peter’s tunesmith skills are as potent as ever, while the band’s chemistry is simply stunning. Passion and excitement rule “Flying in the Dark,” gifting the material with a live and intimate feel.
Bleached with a snaky psychedelic bite, “Call Up the Queen” launches the disc off to dizzying heights, where “Zones,” “Perfect Day,” “I Won’t Forget,” and “Just Waiting” flicker with winning melodies and neat and nifty arrangements. Peter’s vocals, which boast visible resemblances to both John Lennon and Elvis Costello, are arrestingly lucid and assured, as his keyboards pump, dance and twirl with unabashed glee. Graham McCoy’s guitar riffs percolate and jangle with pleasure, Douglas Barker’s bass playing thrums and throbs with intent, and drummer James Cronin maintains a consistently steady and sturdy beat. Absolutely flawless.
A charming ode to Buddy Holly, “Painin’ In My Heart” ranks as another billion-dollar nugget featured on “Flying in the Dark,” along with the politically themed “Industrial Money” and the gleaming, glistening glare of “Zones.” Haunting and moving, the title track of the record reaches deep into the soul and refuses to leave, and “Just Waiting (Reprise)” is a peppy instrumental. Acres of jaunty breaks additionally arise in the songs, supplementing them with an element of surprise.
Promoting a bedazzling blend of garage rocking power pop with frequent forays into new wave nirvana, Tol-Puddle Martyrs are always a joy to listen to. The band truly loves making music, and their commitment to their craft shines through and through on Flying in the Dark. Filled to the gills with tuneful treasures performed straight from the heart and gut, this is an album you’ll spin over and over and over again and never grow tired of.