Album Reviews

Sad Day For Puppets – Unknown Colours

(Sonic Cathedral) UK release date: 1 June 2009


Let’s get one thing clear from the start. Sad Day For Puppets are not, and should not be compared to The Radio Dept. That Sad Day For Puppets are mentioned in the same sentence as them with an ever-increasing frequency is inevitable seeing as they share the same Swedish roots and the same record label, but Sad Day For Puppets’ guitar fuzz is drenched in optimism, and they’re a sunbeam that shines in stark contrast to The Radio Dept’s often sombre raincloud.

As far as comparisons go, Unknown Colors evokes the thick and fuzzy guitar layers of The Raveonettes diffusing into the kaleidoscopic joy and lazy lipless vocals of The Concretes. The whole The Jesus And Mary Chain layered-up fuzzy guitar haze thing is nothing new in itself, but these Puppets have a trick up their sleeve and their strings are pulled by an overarching presence of melody.

Now, to the journo-sceptic music fan this might seem an entirely redundant epithet. Of course it has melody – it’s sodding music. But, SDFP’s melodies are bold and colourful, prominent and engaging. They tap the vein that so many shoegaze-centric bands neglect in their over-zealous assembly of thick layers of guitar noise and as a consequence Unknown Colors is a perfect marriage of jangly, prominent guitars and joyous melodies that render SDFP very much more accessible than their counterparts, and readily able to dispense shimmering pop gems.

And while comparisons have been made (and rightly so) to the shoegaze sounds that defined the ’90s, SDFP are equally reminiscent of the sugar-sweet pop euphoria of ’60s girl-groups like The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. And if some bright spark would have thought to freeze either of those girl groups at the midpoint of their careers (let’s ignore the moral implications) and brought them back to their musical life now, then Shiny Teeth And Sharpened Claws would be the sound of their time-twisted output.

This is largely down to the honey-smooth vocals of Anna Eklund and her seemingly effortless ambience which sees her construct harmonies of near tear-jerking beauty but still manage to instil them with a corporeal joyousness and optimism. And if that all sounds way too camp to be credible, cursory listens to Little Light and Marble Gods will dispel suspicions.

But be under no illusions that in all this joyous melody and cutesy vocals SDFP lose their bite. One of the most striking things about this band is the relentlessly brilliant guitar melodies, which when unleashed sound like they’d be more suited to Pisces Iscariot or Siamese Dream. Mother’s Tears too, has a rock-hard rhythm section that swaggers like the hardest boy in school.

Occasionally it veers a little too close to sickly-saccharine, Cherry Blossom is annoyingly FM-friendly and formulaic. But such criticisms are easily eclipsed by Unknown Colors’ highlights which ensure SDFP’s debut is a refreshing, beautiful, and mood-improving listen.


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Sad Day For Puppets – Unknown Colours