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Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Apr 15th, 2014

Fuel: Puppet Strings

fuelFuel
Puppet Strings
(MRI)

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Fuel’s fifth studio album, Puppet Strings, opens with a straight-ahead punk-like tune, “Yeah,” and once “Soul to Preach To” gets past its staid opening, it features nice plucking guitar and mandolin with some solid vocals from back-in-the-fold original band singer Brett Scallions. Of course things get all predictably rockin’ on the big chorus as we’re into a pretty much commercial formula. “Hey, Mama” has got a Dobro slide from Andy Andersson, flangy electric and Black Crowes-like organ backing. It’s a nice change to the two that went before it.

“Cold Summer” starts with and keeps an arpeggio piano under its tom rolls and roiling guitar and bass. It’s a solid tune with a singable chorus. Brad Stewart’s bass in the slightly wavery “I Can See the Sun” moves the tune along more than most others here, but once again we are in the midst of what I’d say are medium-to-ok lyrics throughout.

The title track is probably the best here. It’s got a great doubled guitar riff opening, spot-on harmony vocals throughout, rich, full production (sounds like a mandolin again in the background), a strong chorus and good slide guitar work. The Steely Dan-like middle section, featuring the great Doors guitarist Robby Krieger is spectacular though. I actually went back to listen to it the second it was over, I liked it that much.

Without original songwriter/guitarist Carl Bell or bassist Jeff Abercrombie here one might come to think of this whole enterprise as “re-fueled” by Scallions. It’s up to you to decide if Puppet Strings is a way forward for the band or a pale copy.

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Fuel: Puppet Strings