Reviews for “The Shakespeare Monkey”

“Album pinnacle of Kiwi indie pop” – The Southland Times (NZ) * * * *

More than 25 years spent underground have done nothing to diminish George Henderson’s vision.

His prolific musical vehicle the Puddle hark back to the golden era of Flying Nun and the Dunedin sound, although the vast range and depth of his music reveal influences from all points of the pop lexicon.

Henderson’s poppish, poetic, achingly beautiful and often edgy songs shimmer with intelligence, angst and wit, and his guitar parts are understated and always appropriate.

The Puddle circa 2009 include Gavin Shaw on bass and Henderson’s brother Ian – a former music critic for The Southland Times a decade or two back – on drums, a bit of every other instrument, artwork, photography and sound recording. His single-stroke drumming is lean, clean and musical, in the same vein as the Puddle’s former long-time drummer Heath Te Au, who left the band in 2007.

The songs on The Shakespeare Monkey meander from the ethereal (Friends) to the biting (So Good, Shivver), to the blatantly Dylanesque (Dylanesque). Wistful melodies and sympathetic arrangements put George Henderson’s voice front and centre, where his deliciously bittersweet lyrics get the platform they deserve.

Widely acknowledged as one of New Zealand’s most insightful lyricists, he has the talent and humour to rhyme “virgins” with “aspersions” and not sound twee.

The Shakespeare Monkey represents the pinnacle of the indie pop craft in Aotearoa. It’s an album that, at 17 tracks long, is best (and easily) absorbed in a single sitting, where its lovely ebb and flow can best be appreciated.” Chris Chilton

Uncut (UK) * * *

Quiet return for Kiwi pop underdog. The Puddle’s George Henderson’s had a shockingly bad run with releases – up until recently, all he had to show for 25 years of writing beautifully resigned guitar pop was a few taps and albums on New Zealand’s Flying Nun imprint. The Shakespeare Monkey will have you wondering why: it’s full of the kind of articulate and well-read pop songs that made Henderson’s home country the epicentre of literate guitar music in the 1980s and ‘90s. A little wordy at times, The Shakespeare Monkey still charms.” Jon Dale

The Sunday Times (UK) * * *

“Economic stringency swathed the New Zealand indie bands of the 1980s in a lo-fi fug. A quarter of a century on, George Henderson and his Dunedin doodlers, the Puddle, have transcended surface noise. This unexpected new album encapsulates perfectly that distinctly velvety Aotearoan drone-pop sound. Henderson’s Flying Nun label-mates of yore – the Chills, the Verlains and Sneaky Feelings – have long since burnt out, but the tortoise of New Zealand rock finally honours his forgotten promise.” Stewart Lee

Real Groove magazine (NZ)

“As promised in last month’s feature, George D. Henderson’s The Puddle have delivered a new album of shimmering, shambling pop songs which could have come from nowhere else but New Zealand. For anyone lusting after the Flying Nun glory days, this album makes a perfect soundtrack to summer.” (Duncan Grieve – Top 10 Deadline Distractions)

The Otago Daily Times (NZ) * * * *

“This fourth studio album from George D. Henderson’s perpetually mutating band delivers a heartening return on a 25-year investment. Rich in craftily constructed melodies and sounding crisper, cleaner and more lithe than many of the Puddle’s previous efforts, it places Henderson squarely where he has long deserved to be: among the pantheon of Kiwi rock deities.

From crusty crooner to razor-sharp guitar gem to dreamy instrumental, it’s impossible to deny the charm of these 17 tracks. Could it be that the best is yet to come from this master of understated pop?

Single download: So Good

For those who like: pop songs with as many challenges as hooks”


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