“Puzzle” by Dada (No. 67)
The early 90s were a great time for music. Not only were there a lot of really interesting bands putting out albums, it was the first time in my life that I actually had a fair amount of disposable income to drop on new music. Those factors combined meant that I found a lot of new bands between 1990 and 2000. Dada‘s Puzzle was one of those records that happened to appear on my radar and find its way into regular rotation.
Dada was another band that I was introduced to by MTV. Their single, “Dizz Knee Land” (hello trademark obfuscation!) was in heavy rotation on the music video channel while I had time to troll the channel for new music or hoping to catch a video I already enjoyed.
“Dizz Knee Land,” is a fantastic single. It’s got catchy as fuck hooks, sinewy guitar, and dexterous bass and drums that just absolutely worm their way into your consciousness.
Let me say, for the record, I wound up buying a lot of albums in the early 90s that turned out to be duds. One or two singles would be really damn good. Then I’d get the entire album home and be crushed by the sheer awfulness of the rest of the album. Yes, Blind Melon, I’m looking at you.
But, it turns out, “Dizz Knee Land” isn’t even the best track on Puzzle. “Dog,” for example, has a melody worthy of The Beatles and a chorus that will keep you humming for days.
“Posters” is one of my favorite songs of the 90s, period. The extended drum riffs and interplay with bass and guitar in the song’s intro are amazingly wonderful. By the time the song finds its grove, you’re already entranced. Lyrically it reminds me of nothing so much as a latter-day “Norwegian Wood,” but with twenty times the intensity.
And then there’s “Dim,” which is absolutely perfect. It’s got searing guitar, dexterous bass, perfect drums, and amazing harmonies. “No one told me, what trouble I was in, before my life went dim!” It’s the perfect post-breakup song, suitable for playing on repeat until you can face the world again. Dada manages to make heartbreak catchy and upbeat, but also lets you wallow in the pain with a cathartic release. “Can’t this car go any faster? Cause I can still see where I am!”
“Tim” is a latter-day “Eleanor Rigby,” but focused on an at-risk child instead of a lonely adult. Replete with strings and acoustic guitar, the band weaves a tale of a boy trapped in telling compulsive lies about his parents to cover for the fact that they’re really not present in his life in any real way. The music to this one is just hauntingly beautiful.
The best of the bunch
Frankly, every song on this album is perfect as far as I’m concerned. I’ve checked out other albums by Dada, and they are … OK. But this one is just frigging dialed in from start to finish. When I’m on long trips, I love to pull this one out because I know the next 55 minutes are going to sail by like the outside world doesn’t even exist.
If you haven’t heard it, I do recommend checking out Dada’s Puzzle. It truly is a masterpiece.