By RUSSELL BAILLIE



(Herald rating: * * * * *)



Having delivered a terrific EP entitled New Concepts in Sound Recording last year, Auckland trio PanAm possibly now face the curse of Flying Nun bands past - a debut album that's nowhere near as good.



But no, although it does lift a couple of songs from New Concepts, this album displays even more confidence, brash pop-rock energy, great tunes and acerbic lyrical humour than that opening hand.

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It's hard to find the filler among the 14 songs (apart from the scratchy demo of encore number Daddy). And although there are just three of them - singer-guitarist Paul Barrett, drummer Cole Goodley and bassist Jarrod Ross - they do that thing that rock trios always seem to do better than bands of larger line-ups. Something to do with leaving holes in which the melodies resonate and - when the mood calls for it - exuding a sense of rock'n'roll joy from creating a racket bigger than themselves.



Where PanAm impress is an ability to go big on decibels and exuberant choruses at the same time - whether it's the swagger and 60s harmonies of Japanese Girls, the Foo Fighters-ish Natural, the electro-pulsed Song 1, or Wannadie towards the end, which starts off like an unwitting tribute to Nun legends the 3Ds.



But they do more than just noisy pop - there's something funky and infectious going on in Cigars in the Suitcase while the ballad Television Broke My Heart sounds sweeter and less of a joke than its title might suggest.



Even Long Grass, an EP track which had a previous life as a catchy telecommunications jingle - which may explain why it's towards the end here - still sounds shiny and new and just as exuberant in its la-la goofiness.



That it's but one of many cracking tunes here, makes PanAm one highly-vital affair and possibly the New Zealand feelgood album of the year.



Label: Flying Nun