tUnE-yArDs – sketchy

More grown-up and considered, this could be a new peak for tUnE-yArDs.

Label: 4AD
Released: 26th March 2021

Merrill Garbus has a mind like no other earthly being. Within the first ten seconds, this is recognisably tUnE-yArDs as the abstract thought and creativity explodes out into the ether. And oh, how the universe needs it.

They’ve ditched computer screens for live instruments for the band’s fifth studio album, and the raw drums feel ideally suited for this latest twist from the California-based duo. Garbus, as expected, opts for challenging, forward-thinking lyrics and – in a socio-political landscape changing quicker than ever before – these statements ought to see the band remembered on the right side of musical history.

Not many people can get away with a minute-long silent track in the middle of a record, yet the context works perfectly in the over-riding fight for all that’s true and just. It happens to be bundled in with enough psychedelic elements to bamboozle a mystic coyote, which is nice.

The words are filled with rallying cries while the music pays homage to far-out predecessors, without trying to be too accessible or easy to understand – that’s not the tUnE-yArDs way. The emotionally draining ‘Hold Yourself’ sets a sombre tone, dealing with the perils of parenthood and self-exploration – in stark contrast to opener’ Nowhere, Man’ which is the perfect way to follow on the themes of 2018’s fantastic ‘I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life’.

It’s surrealist cinema for the years, a startling stream of colours and ideas mixed in with cultural narratives and off-kilter juxtapositions that throw the sound around the room with greater accuracy than the finest ventriloquists the world has seen. More grown-up and considered, this could be a new peak for tUnE-yArDs and they couldn’t have timed this release any better for society’s collective sanity if they tried.

4.0 rating
Total Score

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