I first heard of Tunabunny when I was told that they had performed a 20+ minute version of the Andy Kaufman hit single, “I Trusted You,” at the 2010 Athens Pop Fest. When the opportunity came up to review their second album, Minima Moralia, I had to take it. Having not heard anything besides the previously mentioned cover, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
Opening track “Hurry Up” is quick to establish the feeling of a live band that goes through the entire album. After a short build-up of guitars and drums, the singer starts in a worried whisper that changes into a yell, then into more of a yelping.
The voice brings to mind Kathleen Hanna in how the yelps make up a somewhat sing-songy melody. Then, after two-and-a-half minutes, it all drops out, and slowly returns for one last instrumental measure before closing the track with a drum machine outro. The second song, “Fake It, Faker” continued along this path, although there are distinct verses and choruses that are sweetened by noodling guitar riffs.
“(Song for My) Solar Sister” breaks away from these, instead going towards fuzzy guitars and much softer vocals that are sweetened by harmonies. It came as no surprise to me that this was the first single (or at least first song from the album for which I was able to find an official video), for the guitar riff alone was stuck in my head for days after originally hearing the record.
“Bury the Present” swerved back towards the first two tracks but gave way to “Perfect Time, Every Time.” This track opened with an organ and had the singer repeating what could be construed as the motto of the band through the verse, until it gave way to a warbling chorus of two-part harmonies, simply saying “ah-ahhhh.” At the fourth verse, she starts almost pleading with whomever is listening that it has to be the perfect time, because it’s the right time. It sounded, to me, like Gordon Gano’s delivery over a Velvet Underground track, which wasn’t a bad thing at all.
“Cross Wire Technique” starts with a drum machine and is a dance pop song, which would normally be the type of thing that doesn’t sound live on the record, but they pull it off. Perhaps because even with the mechanical beat, they are are able to give it a jittery feel with the noodling guitars that are scattered throughout. “Only at Night” is a pretty straightforward song, especially compared with the previous ones. The song sounds like it could have been on the soundtrack to The Adventures of Pete and Pete, most likely a chase scene (which someone else picked up on, since it looks as though the video focuses on a girl running through a forest).
This goes into “Killer of Sheep,” which sounds like a Hole song, most notably the opening to their cover of the Young Marble Giants’ “Credit in the Straight World.” One of my favorite instruments that is used on this record is the violin, which gets a few moments where it shines through, “Killer of Sheep” being one of them. There are (at least) two violins being played, and it sounds as though they are not playing exactly the same note, which causes a very interesting dissonance.
“The Natural World” stands out as what could possibly be another single, and brings one of my favorite bands, That Dog, to mind. Well, until the singer starts declaring that she is part of the natural world at the top of her lungs. “Happy Song” sounds exactly like what it is called—everything from the joyful guitar riff to the pleasant cooing with which the singer enters the track. On the final track, “Electric Beach,” the band slowly goes through a two-chord song that could be a sinister Galaxie 500 track. It crawls along for five minutes, when it starts to pick up the beat, but then quickly dissolves and fades out.
Overall, I would say that the thing I am most impressed by on this album is that it sounds like a live band performing a set. While there are a few instruments that aren’t guitars, bass, or drums on the record, it always sounds as if only four people are doing everything at the same time. The points at which the music seems to fall apart and come together do so in a natural way, so much so that it seems like the band may have written each song together while just feeling the different parts out. This live feeling is something that so many bands attempt to achieve on tape, but is hard to produce as a listenable final product. I feel Tunabunny achieves this feat.
The album as a whole is solid. There isn’t any new ground being broken, and I found nothing to be mindblowing after my five listens, but the album is enjoyable. If there’s anything that the record really made me want to experience, it was Tunabunny live. Unfortunately, I just missed their show at the Happy Dog on Sept. 30th. (Were you there? Was it good? Did they play “I Trusted You”? Let me know, if you can. Thanks.) It’s unlikely they’ll return anytime soon, but hopefully I’ll catch them next time. If you want to check out the record, you can buy it from Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records.