(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.


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