Herald rating: * * * *

Halfway through There My Dear, just when you think Dimmer frontman Shayne Carter has mellowed in his middle-age (42), he lets us have it with a seven-and-a-half-minute monster called Scrapbook. It's reminiscent of Dimmer's first searing release, the seven-inch single Crystalator from 1995. And although Scrapbook is not as sonic and turbulent, it's every bit as intense and menacing.

Right from the opening dissonant guitar, rumbling drums, and Carter's livid serenade, it's a song that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and hurls you head first into Dimmer's third album.

But apart from a few other outbursts, Scrapbook is a noisy anomaly. The seven songs surrounding it are a mix of soulful yet uplifting rockers (Don't Even See Me, Under The Illusion) and atmospheric tracks such as the gorgeous closer, What's A Few Tears To The Ocean? (with Bic Runga, Anika Moa and Anna Coddington doing some ghostly work on backing vocals).

This is a break-up album which at first may seem too maudlin, both musically and emotionally.

And it will no doubt remain so for some people. But soak up things like the strong, liquid drumming of Dino Karlis (from HDU), the warmth of Don McGlashan's euphonium, and the beefy bass of Justyn Pilbrow (Elemeno P), and you'll be hooked. Even the "baaaa-by" vocals on Going Nowhere, and the doo-doo-doos on Under The Illusion are fetching.

Then there's Carter. He's not so brooding on There My Dear, his guitar lurches and breathes to full effect, and vocally he sounds more and more like Talk Talk's Mark Hollis.

And his songwriting is tops - the seemingly oversentimental I Won't Let You Break My Heart Again is so well written it makes anything from 2004's You've Got To Hear The Music sound lightweight. Carter is often held up as New Zealand rock royalty. On There My Dear he confirms himself as a soul man as well. Although they're sad break-up songs, Carter sounds pretty happy to be playing them. It's a feelgood album with a soul kind of feeling.

Label: Warner