Album Review: Hans Pucket – No Drama

The New Zealand quartet deliver a brilliantly unpredictable album of eclectic indie pop

Anxiety never sounded as joyful as it does on Hans Pucket’s latest. The Wellington quartet seem perpetually skittish from the first notes of No Drama, their second album and first for Carpark Records, leaping across genres as if stasis might be terminal. Surprises are rife; if there’s anything more unexpected than a clarinet, it’s a second clarinet. And just when you’re on their party wavelength, they hit you with a 70s AM radio ballad. Don’t get comfortable.

Hans Pucket - "My Brain Is A Vacant Space" (Official Music Video)

We’ve not even finished a single verse before Oliver Devlin is referring to his conversational efforts as “hot grey static hissing out my face” and confessing that he can’t “settle or escape this place”. The song in question – ‘My Brain Is A Vacant Space’ – is a worthy addition to the lofty subgenre of ‘this place sucks, can’t I just be with you?’ songs (see also: The National’s ‘Slow Show’, The Mountain Goats’ ‘Broom People’ and Mo Troper’s ‘I Fall Into Her Arms’).

Hans Pucket - "No Drama" (Official Music Video)

On the title track, Devlin echoes Thom Yorke’s pleas for no surprises, tolerating only a total lack of drama due to the “constant wave of alarm” that he’s surfing, even as the music around him seems in total defiance, piling strings, choirs and rifftastic guitars onto its hugely danceable chorus. The excellent ‘Bankrupt’ starts out like a three-chord pop punk charger, but winds up being even more creative than that. ‘Misery Loves Company’ is slyly funky, like the opening sequence for a slick 70s crime series. ‘Drag Me Through Your Heart’ is, quite simply, just brilliant.

Hans Pucket - "Bankrupt" (Official Music Video)

Warm, rounded electric pianos and exquisite harmonies underpin the eclectic arrangements throughout No Drama, anchoring songs that regularly telegraph right turns before darting left. Credit to the band and producer Jonathan Pearce (of The Beths, whose Elizabeth Stokes and Benjamin Sinclair also feature) for tying such an ambitious set of songs together so neatly. It’s a record that is more in search of a feeling than a defining genre. While that makes the task of describing it almost impossible, it makes the act of listening to it endlessly rewarding. Hans Pucket are going places.

No Drama is out to buy and stream now