Cuticles Major Works LP

Blown-out, hook-packed ramshackle garage pop from Kiwi DIY lifers (if name-dropping the PORTAGE or NUX VOMICA doesn’t mean anything to you, it should), traipsing through the kaleidoscope world of early Flying Nun as they gleefully kick up dirt all around them. If there’s an obvious comparison for CUTICLES’ freewheeling tumble between melody and noise, it’s Siltbreeze alums TIMES NEW VIKING, who (for better or worse) helped usher in the mid-’00s “shitgaze” blog hype tag with their scuzzy, in-the-red CLEAN daydreams—the slightly out-of-sync, sweet-but-not-too-sweet vocal harmonies from CUTICLES guitarists Matt Plunkett and Lisa Preston, the subterranean warble of keyboards buried under layers of fuzz and distortion, the get in/get out economy of their eccentric two-minute pop songs not overpowering a willingness to also get weirder and more atonal as it strikes their fancy (the collapsing sax-skronk outro of “Helping Out My Dad,” or the ranting, menacing thud of “Democracy or Dictatorship” sounding like the FALL covering the DEAD C’s “Bad Politics”). It’s a bit of a backwards reference, given that CUTICLES are actually from New Zealand, and Lisa Preston in particular has been behind some crucial ’80s NZ deep cuts that I’m sure their Buckeye labelmates studied rather intently, but you’d still be hard-pressed to find a finer example of the form than Major Works.