reviewed by Chris Matei
To the consternation of those of us who grew up in the last pre-millennial decade, and thus for whom it never really left, per se, the nineties has experienced something of an aesthetic resurgence. And who could forget its impact in the Canadian airwaves, when bands like Sloan, Ginger, Rheostatics, The Odds, Barenaked Ladies and others made their mark with energetic, poppy rock often infused with classic songwriting chops (themselves largely drawn from the formidable Lennon/McCartney book?)
It is such a project that Sloan’s Chris Murphy, Super Friendz’s Matt Murphy and Mike O’Neill of Inbreds, have created with the debut of TUNS (it stands for Technical University of Nova Scotia, in case you were wondering.) Rich with hooky, melodic pop, jangly rock and geeky charm, TUNS reads like a love letter to the kinds of Beach Boy/Beatle-powered foundational records that changed the lives of so many of this generation’s songwriters.
That’s not to say that TUNS are a throwback project: their songcraft sits alongside the uptempo modern-retro verve of label contemporaries like PUP, Alvvays and Hollerado. The lyrics are freehand sketches of melancholia contrasted against heady bliss: on the lead track, Murphy proclaims that his ennui has “been making [his] hives swell up” while follower “Mixed Messages” sets a “rain, rain, go away” refrain against shimmering guitar.
Classically simple and sweet structures meld with edge and sizzle in the album’s midsection, as on the more driving rocker “Mind Over Matter”, evoking the New Pornographers’ brusing Brill style and cleverness. “Look Who’s Back In Town Again” rumbles in a drawling cadence and incorporates some downright psychedelic tremolo effects.
Whether channelling Stonesy classic rock, punk, pop, or surf energies at any given moment, TUNS is a sonic pleasure with as much owed to the Jon Brion or John Entwistle catalogues as the John Lennon one. It’s a celebratory, engaging slice of Canadiana from a few of the scene’s decorated veterans.
Top Tracks: “Back Among Friends”, “Look Who’s Back In Town Again”, “To Your Satisfaction”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent)