by Richard Hart
Athens, Georgia will probably always be famous for being the home of the legendary REM. However it’s been the birthplace to a few other bands including girl-punk band Tunabunny. This fun loving, off the wall outfit have had two albums already and Genius Fatigue is their third album.
Punchy, ballsy without being truly aggressive, low-fi without being experimental; Genius Fatigue is a short album that is firmly counter-culture. The album is built around twisting guitar melodies and the rocky vocals, most of the tracks are fairly short but are far from the sort of snap-shot guerrilla warfare that you might expect of some hardcore punk acts.
Their lyrics are twisted, strange and quite often highly idiosyncratic. It takes quite a few listens to pick up on just how subversive they are as a band. In the “Wrong Kind of Attention” they repeatedly sing “what are you thinking?” and this is a repeated motif in the bands work, not just their music. They’re genuinely keen on having a dialogue with their fans. Their rambling press releases and comments are well worth a read.
The album opens up with the rocky, hammer blow of “Duchess for Nothing” which is a nod to pure hardcore punk. The slower, more melodic “Serpents and Lights” is much more stripped down, sounding almost like a girl version of Yo Lo Tengo.
The growling, menacing “You Do What You Want” follows next with its slow build and its strong drum beat. The dreamy, rocky “Slackjawed” is almost a throw-back to fifties rock music and has a trilling harmony in its vocals. It suits the voice and sound of the band really well and shows how musically capable they are.
The fierce, haunting “Airplanes in Echelon” conjurs images of war but is also somewhat surreal, with a nearly “MBV” style guitar riff that one can imagine being ear-shattering live. Discordant sound effects curve around the gentle acoustic guitar and the whole thing ends up being disturbing and beautiful.
A straight ahead rock song like “Form A Line” is a good break from the more experimental previous track. More rich Yo Lo Tengo like guitar weaves through a more straightforward but highly enjoyable song. This is in sharp contrast to the frankly bizarre “Pachyderm, Fallen”.
“Pachyderm, Fallen” has a sort of Ska, rockabilly riff that gets your head bobbing and evokes the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs” a little bit. But when the snarky discordant vocals kick in, the comparisons end.
The slow growling “Hollywood Unincorporated” feels like a paen to the bands counter-culture ideals, framed around a somewhat ironic chant of “It wasn’t very nice” where the mildness of their call juxtaposes with the sinister tone of their music.
The album closes out with the rocky, dark “Government of Throats” which slams down like the lid of a coffin and is one of the harder songs on the album. “Fear is not my favourite emotion” call the band, one of their more easily decipherable lyrics and political comments.
Tunabunny have a new, fresh approach that deserves attention but will not pander. Genius Fatigue is a grower too, its rich intelligent vocals stand out the more you listen and the music, whilst it’s a bit raw, is in places truly beautiful.