Kingdom Technology

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The first song on Tunabunny's fourth album, 2014's Kingdom Technology, lets the listener know right away that things have changed for the band. The six-minute-long "Airless Spaces" is a hypnotic, repetitive track that unspools very slowly as echoing vocal harmonies flit across the churning noise erratically. It's an interesting way to start a record by a band whose former strength was the fiery intensity with which they attacked their catchy riot pop. The rest of the record is pretty odd, too. It alternates songs built on a high-energy guitar attack with those made up of avant-garde electronic noise, and mixes pulsing dance-punk with super-hooky almost-pop and agit-pop posturing. Almost all of the record has smears of ugly noise creeping around the edges of the mix; some feature this fuzzy, almost concrete sound as the focal point. Thanks for this approach goes to the weird sound-recording device a friend fished out of a dumpster, and some of it probably can be chalked up to Tunabunny's need to expand their sound after a long time perfecting what they had been doing. It's an urge that makes sense; no bands want to repeat themselves forever, even if the results are still good. The problem here is that it doesn't always work. Some of the songs that stray too far from Tunabunny's roots downplay their best asset, namely Brigette Herron's powerful vocals. On songs like "Bag of Bones" and "Tete-a-Tete" she sounds lost in the mix, buried by the group's need to experiment. Another problem is that many of the choices they make aren't that interesting. The electronic elements often sound clich├ęd and the long, droney songs that bookend the album run on for far too long. The best parts of the album are when they successfully incorporate new sounds into their previous format, as on the dubby "Chalked Up" or "Good God Awful," or when they quit fooling around and drop the instant-classic riot pop song "Coming for You." It's such a great song you have to wonder how good the album would have been if they had gone further down this path. As it is, while Tunabunny's desire to experiment is noble, the result are too often muddled or misguided, and Kingdom Technology ends up as the first disappointment of their otherwise inspired career.

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