Music Reviews
Good Arrows

Tunng Good Arrows

(Full Time Hobby) Buy it from Insound Rating - 4/10

There's something worse than being an average band, and that's being an average band viciously cheating to achieve greater recognition. The defendant in this case is London sextet Tunng, an experimental folk band who -- Okay, stop right there. Let's get something out of the way immediately: you're not an experimental band if you use the sound of a typewriter as percussion (or worse: the sound of someone slurping soup, in the accurately titled (wait for it...) Soup). By very definition, experimentalism refers to the act of purposely discovering something unknown. While Tunng's use of quirky sounds and unusual instruments may come off as experimental (at least to an audience of Coldplay fans, which might just love Tunng), their repertoire is surprisingly conservative.

Sorry if I sounded a little harsh back there, but you know what? I just don't buy it. Wikipedia tells me that Tunng have been noted to use sea shells as an instrument. A-Are you kidding? Not only are you getting a little overboard with the pretension there, but didn't this one band revolutionize off-setting samples in, like, 1973? Really, I'm as much of a fan of pretense as the next hipster, but sea shells is where I draw the line. What really bugs me most about all of this, though, is that I really think it would've been better if Tunng just described them self as 'pop' or 'folk' instead of putting up 'experimental' as the first friggin' genre on their MySpace page.

You see, the problem with Tunng is that they're using experimentalism as a cover to create some interest amongst indie snobs, which makes their catatogue feel a little faked. Even disregarding my theory on how truly experimental bands don't consider themselves to be experimental, Tunng are unable to convince me of their honesty and integrity. Which is really the worst offence any band can make in my book. Listening to Good Arrows is like discovering the catch behind a magician's card tricks. As a whole, the record feels too calculated, too planned, too... marketing-concept-ed (even though it's released by a record label whose Marketing Director is probably also Head of Human Resources, if you catch my drift).

But let's say you don't care about being served a defrosted steak at a four-star restaurant. While I think I've expressed my feelings about Tunng's latest outing with a certain courage of conviction, the metaphorical meat in Good Arrows isn't exactly worth a one-way ticket to the dumpster either. The most fun you'll have out of it, however, are its appetizers: the first four tracks are low-fat, light-spirited folk songs. On some levels the silly spices and quirky condiments even work, like on the sparkling standout Bullets. Here the freaky samples and heavily reverbed piano work as a steady base for the vocals (which really shine throughout the record). But even on that track, I keep getting this nagging feeling that I'm listening to a product of calculation instead of inspiration.

Sure, there may be nothing exactly wrong with Good Arrows as a record, and I'm sure that in a different time and situation it would be considered a respectable if shallow pop record. However, in an already excellent year for music, I've come to expect a lot more from a band so happily labelling itself as experimental.