Reviewed by RUSSELL BAILLIE
(Herald rating: * * * *)
Edmund Cake, aka Ed McWilliams, was one third of Bressa Creeting Cake, an Auckland band which delivered one terrific bizarro-pop album in 1997 but didn't survive to tell the tale.
After their demise, the other two BCC members, Geoff Maddock and Joel Wilton (who both guest here), went straighter, musically speaking, as two-fifths of Goldenhorse.
Meanwhile, studio boffin McWilliams plugged away, collaborating with Neil Finn on the disarming soundtrack to the Christine Jeffs' film Rain and slowly assembling this weird but quite wonderful solo album.
If BSC had shades of early Split Enz, then it would seem McWilliams is the Phil Judd of the piece - shy, high-voiced, art-minded and possessed of an eccentric pop talent and a cartoonish sense of humour.
The lavishly appointed 10 tracks swing from the Flaming Lips-strength pop psychedelia of opener Secret Girl, through to the inspired nonsense of Gunga (Peter Gabriel joins Monty Python, sort of) and the Tom Waits-ian My Son the Harpist, its stream-of-consciousness lyrics the album's most lunatic moment.
But among all that crazy-paving is a bracket of lovely if lateral-minded piano-based numbers such as Golden Man, You're Watching Me, The Airshow and the Brian Wilson-esque lullaby Beautiful Sleep.
Add to that a couple of odes to love thriving at musician-level poverty (We Live Like Kings) and on shopping trips (Silverdale which, with its uncredited guest female vocal, sounds quite Goldenhorse). So yes, Downtown Puff does take the Cake - as an album that is as genuinely eccentric as it is truly inspired.
Label: Lil Chief