* * * *

The New Zealand pop landscape does not lack for weirdy beardy wonderboys. Maybe that's why Lawrence Arabia - that's James Milne on his much-stamped passport - has gone under his particular moniker, to stand out a little.

But his marvellous new album does that anyway. Much of the rest of the wonderboy club (various Phoenix Foundationites, Liam Finn among others) appear in the production and player credits to this set which Milne recorded all over the planet.


It's his second Lawrence album, following one he simultaneously released with a record from his then-band The Reduction Agents in 2006. That first solo effort was spare-room pop experimentation. This is much more like the Agents' shining pop-rock effort which delivered the great

The Pool

, a song which was a standout on the

Eagle Vs Shark

soundtrack, otherwise dominated by those Phoenix fellows.

Firstly a health warning: Milne follows the nicotine enthusiasm of

The Pool

with new song


I've Smoked Too Much

. It would seem he's not going to be appearing as a rock'n'role model on those smokefree posters anytime soon.

But everything else is positively fragrant, especially when it's triggering a strong sense of Beatles deja vu on the first two of the 10 tracks, with the Lennon-lilt to opener

Look Like A Fool

and the George Harrisonesque jangle of

The Undesirables


Milne's magpie tendencies are shot through with effervescent pop spirit which make for some irresistible choruses, especially on the indelible

Apple Pie Bed

and the aforementioned country-grilled



Elsewhere, his funny, starry-eyed lyrics also do an entertaining line in matters coital, Mr Arabia sounding more D.H. than T.E. Lawrence on the likes of the tale of nocturnal liaison

Auckland CBD

Part Two

(which starts off Jonathan Richman before boarding the disco cruise-liner), as well as the scathing social set dissection of

The Beautiful Young Crew


Only 10 songs long, it almost understays its welcome. But

Chant Darling

delivers sexy, funny geekpop by the barrel.

Russell Baillie