The Tunics - Dabbler's Handbook (2011)

There has been quite a lot of talk recently about the Return of the Band, and certainly there are significant new ones – and that's not an artistic judgment, just a prediction about their impending commercial fortunes – most notably Brother, Mona and the Vaccines. But it's hardly the case that there's been a band drought these past few years. Remember the Strokes and the White Stripes? The Libertines? Franz Ferdinand? Arctic Monkeys? Yes, there has been a preponderance of soul girls and synth duos, and in terms of the focus of the music press a lot of attention has gone on urban and grime acts, on musicians who broadly speaking fit more in the electronic(a) category than the indie-guitar one. But does the balance need redressing that urgently?

The Tunics – like Mona, the Vaccines and Brother – believe so. "GUITAR BANDS ARE BACK!" proclaims their press release, bemoaning the fact that 2010 has apparently been "dominated by synths and sampling", adding that 2011 will be "the year the guitar bands come back fighting to reclaim the land the synths stole momentarily".

Meanwhile, their frontman Joe Costello has vowed to play his part in this battle for musical justice, his intention being to bring back "good old guitar songs", declaring: "Not to be too overblown about the whole thing but we're ready for a proper fucking guitar band with actual songs. I think that's what the world needs." Wonder what he'll come up with when he does say something overblown?

If nothing else, the Tunics and Brother have signalled the return of indie bigmouths who talk themselves up something rotten in interviews. Costello, like Brother's Lee Newell, is prone to making the sort of swaggering sun-shines-out-of-our-behinds/we-are-the-resurrection statements not heard since the heydays of Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher.

Question is, does the music back up the chat? Well, it does if trad indie – and the Tunics are proudly upholding trad indie values – is your bag. Costello was 16 when he was inspired to form a band called the Tunics after learning that his all-time hero Pete Doherty used to wear them a lot. You can learn a lot about Costello and his outfit from this misplaced deification of junkie buffoon Doherty and his merry band of overrated minstrels because that's who the Tunics' punky skiffle most resembles. There are nods to other groups – the "shee-iii-ne" in their song Shine On is vowel-stretching in Liam's league while You Already Knew is Oasis-ish bluster.

Some of the time they sound like a great band doing an impression of a terrible one – on Berlin they make us think of Magazine ripping their way through a Cast song. It's not all mediocre jingle-jangle: on occasions Costello employs a pleasing Devoto/Shelley sneer over snarling sonics, and they play a mean (mellow) ballad: Radio is wan acoustica worthy of Nick Drake. Like that other Liverpudlian band, theBeatles, the Tunics have, ahead of any fame back home, accrued a sizeable following in Germany where they are currently at No 4 above Kanye West with a pre-release of their debut album "Dabblers Handbook" (a title with Doherty's witless smirk all over it) and they regularly play 2,000-capacity venues there.

Their last album was pretty good, and this one is sounding great too.


The Tunics
Dabbler's Handbook
Album art: 
Release date: 

1. Berlin
2. Help Is On Its Way
3. I'm Broke You're Boared
4. Stolen Hearts
5. Radio
6. Low
7. Interlude
8. Slaves Ride On These Waves
9. You Already Knew
10. Shadows
11. Wit & Acid Tongue
12. A Moment Of Clarity
13. Dear God

Music label: 
Manta Ray
United Kingdom
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