Sloan/Super Friendz/Inbreds Supergroup TUNS Yield Even Richer Results on 'Duly Noted'
Published Mar 22, 2021Based on a decades-long friendship between three men whose parallel creative paths have finally converged, TUNS exude warmth and joy in their uniquely and cleverly composed rock sound. After nailing it out of the gate on their 2016 self-titled debut, Chris Murphy (Sloan), Matt Murphy (the Super Friendz), and Mike O'Neill (the Inbreds) bring us Duly Noted, proving that TUNS' camaraderie experiment can yield even richer results than initially estimated.
The equality of opinions and ideas is evident in the distribution of labour here, as each member sings four songs they've written, with thematic throughlines evident in their expression. Those who follow Sloan know that Chris Murphy is an observational and autobiographical writer, unafraid to reveal wishful thinking, self-consciousness and his general state of mind. Here though, he blends in some fantastical narrative tricks for songs about gossip and innuendo (the peppy "Everybody Knows" and "Keeping Options Open") along with work-life balance woes (on Clash-like opener "In the Middle of the Way Home"). We may be learning the most about him and his persistent personality and age defiance with the classic rock banger and card trick, "Double Down."
For his brother-from-another-mother-with-the-same-last-name, Matt Murphy, things are a little sunnier and romantic. He sings about how he'd valiantly "change for you" on "We Stand United," a ripper of a love song that also conjures the Clash (at one point, Joe Strummer's "Safe European Home," specifically), while a similar sentiment is conveyed on the relatively gentle album closer, "We're Living in it Now," which takes stock of and celebrates a relationship that is hitting its stride. The krautrock/Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet feel of "Flags for Curtains" spurs Matt Murphy to take on his most biting, edgy voice, while he provides the album's most adventurous and infectious two-songs-in-one garage-pop jam with "I'll Only Love You More."
As is his wont, Mike O'Neill is the hit-making dark horse in TUNS, modestly singing beautifully while coming up with very high-level, whimsical lyrics that reflect upon love, friendship and his lot in life. "I cannot help my memories" he sings on the indie-rock radio-ready "My Memories," which is an unlikely hook; it's so multi-layered in its meaning and yet so starkly simple, plus it's phrased so well, it does some meta work by being truly unforgettable. Not that it's always easy; on the spirited "Words and Music," O'Neill sings about how hard it can be to write the lyrics to a TUNS song and then, of course, they're funny, revealing words. This follows "In Another Life," in which O'Neill daydreams about a life that might have been better than the one he has led but also couldn't possibly top it because he has the luxury of contentment. It's the kind of existential stuff O'Neill does so well, as evident on "Holding My Breath," which is a clever play on imposter syndrome and internalized external pressure, using motifs one might associate with a magician.
Given how committed to excellence these three songwriters are, there are some wonderful frills to the collage of effort that conjures TUNS' music. Distinct and strong singers, they do not settle for safe back-ups or harmonies; as they've done in the past, TUNS will inform the lyrics by occasionally forming a Greek chorus who speak to whomever is singing lead, calmly measuring their emotion with reason. The guitar-bass-drums musical interplay too is beyond compare — three of the best players anywhere who guise musical sophistication in songs the whole family can enjoy. (Murderecords/Universal)