Live: Tunng at Union Hall, 10.23.07


Which one is responsible for the blips, bleeps, bloops, etc?

Union Hall
October 23

The first noise I hear upon walking in sounds an awful lot like a Speak N Spell. This is a profoundly bad sign. (CocoRosie nightmares and all that.) Onstage are three British dudes with acoustic guitars, two of whom boasting long, flowing hair, one of whom wearing a T-shirt that reads “Too weird to live, too rare to die.” They are augmented by a spry, smiley lady holding a noisemaking tape recorder up to the mic and making Zach-Braff-movie eyes.

Together, they sing a pastoral folk song in unison (harmony in the spiritual, not musical sense), buttressed by all manner of electronic blips, bleeps, bloops, etc. It is two songs before I realize they have a drummer. It is three songs before I realize there’s another dude hiding back there who’s responsible for the blips, bleeps, bloops, etc, his face bathed in a MacBook glow. This is straight-up hippie vegan compound music, all growing their own marijuana and fingerpainting and playing Ring Around the Rosie and shit, but at least they have wi-fi.

Frequently, the crowd giggles.

This band is relentlessly cute. Their melodies are relentlessly sweet and childlike, which is far preferable to childish, which they also are, alas, occasionally. The new Good Arrows (Thrill Jockey) is garnering Beta Band comparisons, but the BBs’ “She’s the One” turned up on the ol’ shuffle earlier today, and nothing Tunng’s got on record or onstage approaches that goofy grandeur. (“Arms,” though, has a splendid, loping, mini-epic feel to it, a melody that won’t annoy you pinned to Postal Service beats and crackling fires, children shouting Yay!, etc.) Most of the time, we will have to settle for goofy. Goofy is fine. These are the sort of guys who like to intro songs by explaining what they’re about.

Things Tunng’s Songs Are About

* Old friends

* Drinking cups of tea and being free

* Making the most of life while we’re here

* A bored housewife who decides to rob a bank

* Soup

I’m guessing on that last one, as one memorable tune starts as a percolating instrumental with a nice Múm thing going, that synthetic vs. naturalistic vibe, very Icelandic. Suddenly it stops, everyone shouts Soup!, and it gets all loud and raucous. It is called “Soup.” It is pleasant, warm, aromatic, soothing. But hardly filling.

Tunng play Mercury Lounge tonight.