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Album Review

With short, sharp, often trebly songs and defiantly unclean vocal levels, Master, drawing on various recordings made by band compatriot Stefan Neville around Auckland, is clearly the work of a band that has happily listened to decades worth of spiky indie/punk songs of all stripes. But that's part of the appeal of Coolies, who manage the neat trick of drawing on so many sources of inspiration that they're ultimately just themselves in the end. The blaring non-solo solo on "Ghost Baby" and "In Theory" shows what could be called synth-punk if one squinted at it, but it's more that the keyboard distortion and squeals, along with the feedback blasts, add a great swirl of chaos even while there's still a central chug for each song. "Holiday" might come closest to a straightforward punk/pop nugget as such, but even so it has the air of the happy chaos of a band like Bikini Kill, while "Pull the Trigger" could be one of the best tributes to early Bauhaus around, thanks to the descending sprawl of the main verse. If anything, the defiant minimalism of bands like Wire and the Minutemen is a key, in terms of quick impact over a short period more than actual sound per se; instead of clean focus there's more often an intentional racket. Comparatively longer numbers like "Shift" and "Searching" betray their live recording origins, based on the occasional yelp or song title introduction. They bring out a further murky distortion that adds a becoming warmth, matched by the quieter vocal mix and a couple of cheers from the audience at the end.

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Master, Coolies
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