TUNS – s/t (Royal Mountain)
(full disclosure: I was hired to write TUNS’ official bio. This is not that bio. This is my genuine fandom.)
If the term Halifax Pop Explosion means anything to you, then this is the album you’ve been waiting for. Chris Murphy of Sloan, Matt Murphy (no relation) of Super Friendz and Flashing Lights, and Mike O’Neill of the Inbreds have teamed up to make a power trio that is even more than the sum of its parts. You know how when your favourites get together and make a so-called supergroup and 99 times out of 100 the end result is an inevitable disappointment and compromise? (See: Case/lang/veirs.) This is the one per cent you can get behind.
Attention magnet Chris Murphy is more than content to leave his bass behind and stay behind the drum kit here, letting equally natural rock star Matt Murphy handle all guitar parts (and rock kicks on stage). Of the three, Murphy has been the most musically dormant in recent years: here, he sounds pent up and unleashed, playing with the same vigour and excitement he did on his earliest records. O’Neill, whose bass playing in the duo that was the Inbreds was innovative and inspiring, has since, on his solo records, switched to guitar and played it relatively straight. Here, he’s back on bass, playing intricate and melodic lines that suit the power trio format perfectly: Paul McCartney meets John Entwistle. All three share lead vocals, although you wouldn’t necessarily know that: these musical brothers share a similar vocal timbre, which makes the three-part harmonies even more richer.
All these men can write a great pop song on their own; together, they weave together interlocking hooks and let the lead melodies go to sometimes unexpected places. Practitioners of a concise craft, they also keep it clean and quick: nine songs in less than half an hour, with nary a wasted note. As the old adage goes: all killer, no filler. The production is rooted in late ’60s Beatles and early glam stomp, with the directness and energy of early Jam records; it sounds timeless and raw, much like the performances themselves.
It’s hard to imagine a better straight-up rock record being released this year. Tuns o’ fun. No surprises, though: total pros, that’s what they’re here for. (Aug. 25)
Stream: “Back Among Friends,” “Lonely Life,” “Mind Your Manners”