Tunabunny | Kingdom Technology
by Lee Adcock
Ideally, I wouldn’t have to write this review. Mike Turner (head of Happy Happy Birthday To Me) would just send out psychic Tunabunny signals to the world, via vessels such as this stream from the Quietus, and thousands would leap from their chairs in an instant. “WELCOME BACK, TUNABUNNY” banners in pink and blue would be flung over 10,000 thresholds. 5,000 will stuff the new album into their car stereos and drive for four hours straight around dubious country roads just to soak in all the ecstasy.
How do I begin? How can I possibly state with just the syntax of these flat typed words how CENTRAL Tunabunny are to me? And how many times I’ve heard this new album, albeit in the ultra-rare Visceral Cinema form? (The neo-record collector types will be CD-R hunters, Sherlocks discerning if the Sharpie labels were indeed written by their aged or long-dead idols.) How many times, I should say, I’ve started off on a gig, shaky and jittery because social outings always shake and jitter me, and plugged this in to feel waves of welcoming spirit? To drift, precisely, into the sublime opener ‘Airless Spaces‘, the supreme gateway to the heavens, and then to be blasted awake by the signal call to action and life (“Canaries in Mine shafts”)?
Ohhhhhhh, BUT. The night has not begun until we reach the third track. And here, friends, is where we hear Tunabunny emerge as the nocturnal creature they’ve always been, but never quite shown on record before. ‘Save It Up‘ throbs like neon. Not like the harsh strobe in the mega-modern night club, the ones with the beastly huge crowds, but night club-esque nevertheless. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head-esque, even. AND THEN comes ‘Different Jobs‘, the first “single”, and WHAT THE FUCK is this glorious warped inverted bass, this stomping, these childish peculiarities? Lordy lordy yes. Also, being a rabid Antlered Aunt Lord fan, I’m uber-pleased to hear Jesse in the distant corner, contributing to the silently stewing confusion.
Just when you thought your head would implode from THAT, in comes another churning ping-ping-ping-PANG, a chug-a-chugga of harmony known as ‘Power Breaks‘ underneath the chorus – “pump on the breaks now”. Of course they don’t. Chugga-chug-CHUG. Driving with this sucker is a rush.
The arsenal of new electronic effects comes from necessity. Believe it or not, as superhuman as Tunabunnies are, they cannot always assemble at a second’s notice. So folks experimented with things. It’s the not the first foray of course – recall the kinking engineering behind the pulsing ‘Cross Wire Technique‘ via Minima Moralia – and certainly not the first time they’ve toyed with neglected instruments – recall ‘Airplanes in Eschelon‘ – but here on Kingdom Technology the keys and all their charming defects multiply and mutate into the foreground. On ‘Tete-a-Tete‘, you can imagine someone dialing into an old CV radio, trying to get a 10-4 with the angels truckin’ that night. ‘Terminal Departure‘ is nothing more than someone messing around with a keyboard, and delighting in the weird warps and weaves that worm from his/her fingertips.
But me, oh me, what I loves is a big booming bass. Somethin’ to mutilate and confound the poor vinyl clutchers. ‘Bag of Bones‘ has the fattest bassline you could possibly imagine. Thick and warm, a deep dark seeping wave of ink that blankets your skull as the keys bubble and sing and the vocals spiral upwards to infinity. What’s utterly genius is the guitar that snakes in, a more Tunabunny-esque riff, but somehow stiff in the vat of inkiness.
The more familiar slacker-rock guitar romps are still in tact, of course, and as romp-inducing as ever. ‘Coming For You‘ is a flat-out classic, the “Cannonball” of our generation: “I never say the right things / I never do what I’m supposed to do / you say I had it coming / just wait what’s coming for you”. Plus, funky bass breakdown. Hells yeah. ‘Good God Awful‘ is, beyond any doubt, the most infectious 1-minute boy-girl guitar boogaloo ever devised. PROVE ME WRONG. And where would Tunabunny be without their own dance? Watch the videos for the lumbering ‘Chalked Up‘ and master the steps. Pause, turn, pause, turn again, “one step forward and three steps back, he’s just a prick and she’s just a slack…” Hell, before you know it you’ll have your own private dance, because RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.
But the master stroke, the magnum opus, the dual swan song (for it is two songs in one) is tucked away at the end, the stunning ‘(They Say) This Is Where Our Dreams Live‘. Beauty and menace, hand in hand, in the first section. The beauty always lies in the enigma, what I can never explain, and really never want to: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, / but you’ll have to lock your doors tonight.” The tragedy, the sincerety, it’s all there, I don’t have to probe any deeper. But then, but then, beauty succumbs to paranoia. “I don’t wanna go out there.” Very clear. Very shaky. Very echoey. Sinister scraping. Stalking bass. Drums rocket forward. Paranoia gives way to hysteria. The night subsumes all.
Oh, look what I’ve done. See now, Kingdom Technology is not an album to gloss over, to cull together similar sounds and conclude, “Ah, it sounds like this.” No, because Tunabunnies are too crafty, too plucky, and too astronomically clever to dwell in one sound. So every nook and cranny of this album delves somewhere new – and what can ya do, but hop and jive between each one, and relish each new flavor, like in a bag of 50-flavor Jelly Bellies?
At any rate, the most important take-away from this review is that Tunabunny will take over the world. Or, at least, rule all the nights from here on out. Or, at least, the walled-in garden of hip/non-hip muso overlords. Failing that, they should at least be content to know that, 20 years from now, when the kids come-a asking me who was my Dylan/Velvet Underground/Joy Division/Pavement/Nirvana, I’ll tell ‘em Tunabunny.
Kingdom Technology drops on March 11th via HHBTM; but you can pre-order now here.