Tunng – Tunng Presents…Dead Club album review

15 11 2020

An album about death, dying and grief in 2020? I’m not sure I can listen to that was my initial reaction, but as soon as I read that the album was inspired by Max Porter’s novel Grief Is the Thing With Feathers (I saw Enda Walsh’s mind-blowing adaptation at The Barbican, starring Cillian Murphy in 2019) I dived in headfirst and what an uplifting experience this turned out to be.

Tunng’s Good Arrows was one of my favourite albums of 2007, but this new release takes the band’s sound to another level. For a start, the instrumentation is less electronic, glitchy and is so much more organic and natural. There is space for the music, and lyrics, to breathe in these arrangements. Opening with Eating the Dead, based on the Wari indigenous people of Brazil who used to, well, you have read the title. The song is heart-beat paced, and talks of devouring the memories of the person who has recently passed. Like the majority of the album, the song is incredibly moving, because of, not despite of, its unsettling subject matter.

“Lay you on my kitchen table
Cut you open tenderly
Eat your heart and eyes and mouth
Every word you spoke to me”

The pure, infectious pop of Death Is the New Sex hides the dark message in the lyrics.

“Death is the new Sex
Coming soon to fuck us all”

SDC (aka Swedish death cleaning) is the lyric that hit me hardest, for very personal reasons. SDC is a song about the process of organizing and de-cluttering your belongings before you die, so those left behind don’t have to do this heart-breaking task. Deciding what remnants of someone’s recently ended life gets thrown in the bin or kept within the family as a keep-sake is a harder task than you might first imagine. Something that might have been intensely personal and precious to the person who has passed could be seen as something to be tossed away, as simply junk. That faded picture, or creased and barely legible hand-written letter could contain so much of the person, their hopes and dreams and if not cherished, could be lost forever to landfill.

Three Birds features a delicious bass-line, underpinning a gentle percussion free arrangement. A Million Colours is a simple, Love Cats like song that builds as layers of guitar and strings are dropped onto the topic of not being able to comprehend the impending loss of a loved one.

“You, I can’t quite imagine you gone
You a million bright colours all strewn about”

Carry You and The Last Day touch on the memories that remain after we have gone and what physically happens to us after the process of dying, along with the need for us all to live in the now, living our lives as fully as we can. This film only plays once.

The arrangement on Tsunami is one of my favourites on the album. A decaying note under a simple piano line and lead vocal slowly builds like the incoming deadly wave, getting closer and closer. The band leave us with just the vocal line that soon becomes isolated, stranded and alone in a silent sea. Such a thoughtful and powerful piece of music.

Scared To Death is one of the jewels on this album, featuring luscious strings and feeling like a classic album track from the mid-70s.

“You’re so scared to be what you’re not yet
Hoping love is its own reward”

Derren Brown features on the intro to Fatally Human, another album highlight due to the strong production and string arrangement. I love how disembodied voices float over the slowly departing musical track, as silence finally reigns over all.

The genesis of Dead Club, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, rounds off the final quarter of the album with two tracks written and recorded in collaboration with its author Max Porter. No punches are pulled on Man, and the album’s final track, its companion piece, Woman. It might be uncomfortable at times, but there is a searing honesty that the subject matter demands, throughout these two tracks and the album as a whole.

If you want more than just escapism in your music, and appreciate honesty, beauty and a little dark humour, then please give this album by Tunng a listen. Prepare to be moved.

Buy Tunng Presents…Dead Club from Amazon

Eating the Dead 07:14
Death is the New Sex 04:14
SDC 05:38
Three Birds 03:59
A Million Colours 05:41
Carry You 04:53
The Last Day 05:32
Tsunami 03:11
Man 03:32
Scared To Death 04:53
Fatally Human 06:20
Woman 04:22








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