CD, Mad World Records, 2009
“Tsar Bomba” is a five-track EP from Los Angeles-based Madeline Puckette, distributed by Mad World Records as promotional material for an upcoming full-length album of the same name, slated for release in April 2010. Although the title derives from the largest nuclear device ever detonated and the socialist-inspired artwork pictures a strategic bomber, Puckette’s borrowing of this imagery seems to have little to do with her music. Rooted firmly in the synthesized pop sound and DIY underground dance of electroclash, “Tsar Bomba” also reflects Puckette’s early riot grrrl leanings and an independent, girl-power aesthetic. Characterized by half-sung/half-spoken vocals and growling synths, the release touches on themes of primacy, jealousy, affluence and diabolic immoderation. Upon further reflection, perhaps that’s where the arms race intimations arise after all.
Beginning with the more-or-less ‘classic’ electroclash sound and handclap beat of “Devil’s Party” and followed by the slow-paced instruments and rapping in “All Around the World”, “Tsar Bomba” is, at first glance, rather dull. The third track, “Money Ring”, a six-and-a-half-minute epic of powerful synth blasts and catchy vocals, is where things finally pick up. “Ladykiller”, already set to be Puckette’s definitive hit single, is chock-full of girl-on-girl angst in a refreshing appropriation of the term. Certainly the release’s strongest number, it wraps a straightforward dance beat with layers of stuttered syths and vocals, the latter a stylistic motif of Puckette’s that is also used elsewhere to good effect. The lyrics offer an appropriate electroclash mix of simplicity and fun (“I’m a rollercoaster, I’m a movie poster, I’m a beat master, you’re a disaster”), delivered with fullness and clarity.
Puckette’s first-rate voice, in fact, is one of the saving graces of “Tsar Bomba” – versatile and full of twists and turns, it suggests her potential for a powerful stage presence. Finally, the eclecticism of “Blown Away”, a track that initially seems a downtempo lullaby but breaks form in the middle with a swift electro rhythm and shift in singing style, closes the sampler nicely with yet another hint that Madeline Puckette’s full-length “Tsar Bomba” promises good things to come.
— Dutton Hauhart