Albums / EPs, Reviews

Album Review: Holiday Murray – Puffadder Sessions EP

Holiday Murray’s (HM) eponymous debut was a collection of solid tunes that showed potential. After a…

Holiday Murray’s (HM) eponymous debut was a collection of solid tunes that showed potential. After a three-year absence the boys are back with an EP of five tracks that lacks coherence and progression, resulting in a product that resembles unimaginative off-cuts from their first album with a hint of impotent political agenda.

After the release and subsequent touring of their initial release, HM were poised to establish themselves as staples. Clever song structures that were perhaps more accessible musically than the likes of prog-rock jazz instrumentalists Bateleur and earnest, sing-along-inspiring lyrics appealed to a broad gig-going audience. At the release of the debut some members were finishing up at UCT while others had recently devoted their time to music entirely. It appears that the period in between the end of touring the debut and release of the new EP resulted in a disconnectedness; speculatively the result of hedonistic indulgence or a mere loss in direction. 

Most of the problem with Puffadder Sessions lies in the structure and intended tone that it punts throughout the EP. Having never given an indication on the previous release of any political motive, it’s clear the band have sought to emphasise a politically-informed aspect in their music – even including the president’s name amongst the tags on Bandcamp. The decision is arguably a commendable one – there is a need for everyone who’s a part of the new, democratic era to begin to grapple with South Africa’s troubled history and its prevalent reverberations today. Yet, this attempt comes off all wrong, dealing with things inarticulately and superficially.  

The opening track ‘POWA’ – which happens to be the lead single – is a prime example of this. It comes off like an apology for the rest of the EP’s self-indulgence and lack of progression, serving as pseudo-political preface to a body of apolitical work that, instead, paints a rosy picture of what it means to be a young, privileged South African. With opening lines “It’s been twenty years since we’ve been freed / Where have we come? / What have we learned?”, one can’t help but cringe. As such, the commentary that’s derived from the track is rendered dated and borderline insincere. This adversely affects the subsequent tracks, considering what follows are four tracks which provide virtually no departure in musical style. The political context ‘POWA’ initiates isn’t grappled with any further, which leaves it looking redundant. Being the white kids from the southern suburbs will inevitably affect how one’s commentary is perceived and make it that much harder to be perceived as genuine and uncontrived. 

Glimmers of hope are present, though. ‘Puffadder’ and ‘Fortuna’ show potential. In both instances however, they require a little extra help. With Nic van Reenen (Fever Trails/Bateleur) on producing duties for ‘Puffadder’, the song gains an element of complexity with the use of added percussion and synth arpeggios. This simple modification momentarily lifts the track out of the apparent rut in which the band’s sound has found itself. ‘Fortuna‘ is saved by its harder edge, courtesy of Johnny Tex and Warren Fisher, formerly of The Future Primitives (RIP).  

On the whole, the EP can’t help but feel like a bit of a chronically underwhelming afterthought – salvaged pieces from the debut album’s recording sessions. With the added botch of general structure and the implications that follow, Puffadder Sessions ends up being a forgetful blip on the radar. 

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