If the wonderful Professor Branestawm-type artwork doesn’t draw you in, the music will. Tunng’s communicative songs are simple gems delivered with the minimum of fussm though their instrumentation at times mirrors the artwork.
The group’s simplicity is evident in the one-word song titles, the softly spoken yet clear delivery of vocalist Sam Genders and occasional cohort in voice, the sweetly toned Becky Jacobs. The lyrics they sing are sometimes funny, often barbed reflections of everyday life, capturing a soft, end of day weariness.
Bullets rises above this, with its floated string line and marvellous representation of bones. “We’re catching bullets in our teeth” goes the catchy refrain, in the record’s most immediately endearing moment.
Songs like Hands, on the other, er, digit, bring forward a tender, bittersweet aspect of the songwriting. In a song seemingly marvelling at the life of a surgeon, Genders wonders how “he couldn’t resuscitate her amd now he’ll go home to his wife for tea”. It’s achingly touching.
Much has been made of how Tunng belong to the group of artists that practise ‘folktronica’, whatever that means – assumed by this writer to be a complementary reference to an ability to blend folksy tunes, rhythms and in particular lyrics with the bleeps and dashes of the sequencer.
Those levelling the tag at Tunng better head for Soup, which has a fly in it in the form of an unheralded thrash-out that briefly takes over. Then it’s back to the glockenspiel, as if nothing had happened.
Such is Tunng’s appeal, the ability to do the unexpected but also to make you smile with their lyrical vignettes and musical slights of hand. The smile may on occasion be accompanied by raised eyebrows or even followed by a frown. Whichever reaction is inspired, it’s clear Tunng don’t take themselves too seriously, and have a meaningful question or two to ask us while we listen.