TUNS, (strangely named after the Technical University of Nova Scotia) is a supergroup of three 90s Canadian indie artists, which sounds exciting on paper. From Super Friendz and Flashing Lights, you have Matt Murphy on the guitar. On drums, Sloan’s Chris Murphy (no family relation). On bass and lead vocals, Mike O’Neill of the Inbreds. 20 years ago, these guys were pumping out some of the most interesting music Canada had to offer through their respective bands, so you’d think their coming together now would bring their refined best. But what we got instead was a collection of just-solid indie-pop songs, distant from their 90s roots, but ultimately uninteresting in an age where indie-pop is already being better molded by groups like Peter Bjorn and John or The Elwins.
The chemistry and syncopation that these three seasoned musicians bring to each other is the highlight here. Their instrumentation compliments each other nicely, there’s plenty of pleasant harmonies, and their lyrics about things like the triumph of music and friendship feel genuine. Let it be known that these three have some strong songwriting—but perhaps it’s not enough to bear the burden of their reputations. Apart from a few aspects of certain tracks—the verses in “Lonely Life”, the drum groove in “Throw It All Away”, and the ballad-like vocals in closer “I Can’t Wait Forever”—many of the nine tracks lack any distinction to grab or further hold the listener. Almost all of the songs are catchy, to be sure, but they never really held my attention. Each song’s formula almost entirely reveals itself within the first few bars, and you’re left with three more minutes of thinking “this is going to continue on to the end, isn’t it?” What let me down most was the underwhelming guitar riffs or beachy, isolated chords that were simply not clever enough to rest the song’s melody on, especially when the vocals were usually so strong.
It wouldn’t be so hard for me to imagine what could’ve been if it weren’t for the band throwing in constant lyrical nods to the past. Even song titles: “Back Among Friends” and “Look Who’s Back In Town Again”—there’re these constant winks that suggest the listener should know who these guys are and where they come from. Problem is, once you go and listen where they’ve come from, you’re likely to get sucked into much more interesting musical directions. TUNS and their self-titled debut are fine indie-pop. It’s easy to listen to, but it was just as easy for me to stop listening. If you were looking for something special and new from this collaboration—and not just something new for these specific musicians—then you’re likely to be disappointed by this record.
review by Matthew Wardell