tUnE-yArDs - Manchester Gorilla

Flanked by hippy stick-brandishing backing singer/dancers, opening with cries of “Peace! Peace and love!”, tUnE-yArDs shouldn’t work but it somehow does. Encompassing all of the worst elements of Glastonbury (face paint, tribal drums, white people), yet somehow making you not want to stab your own face, like, the Tune-Yards live show is pretty much a sure-fire guarantee of a good time.

A controlled skittishness and barely suppressed hysteria characterise the music; like an over-zealous mood board or Japanese style blog, there’s a lot going on, and while it can feel like something of a hodgepodge of genre, a chaotic bric-a-brac of influence and decade, it’s very assured, very disciplined. There’s a curatorial sense of order, too; the lemon yellows and candy pinks, the electric ukulele, the dancehall hopscotch; it all makes sense. The quirks are mostly palatable; “special guy” and “cherry pie” is a couplet I could have done without, though it rarely gets cutesy. “A two pound chicken tastes better with friends” she whoops; “a two pound chicken tastes better with you”, which is really rather romantic indeed.

It’s very somatic, very physical; Merrill Garbus loops handclaps, jumping up and down with an exuberance that defies the ludicrous heat of the room. “When you get hair in your face,” she tells us, not inaccurately, “it is a problem.” Current outing Nikki Nack is no huge divergence from previous records, though does feel a little more neatly finessed, more roundly realised. Garbus seems to have relaxed into the idiosyncrasy of the project, weird electronic effects segue more naturally with the zippy melodies, her peppy cadence feels easier, and while lyrically it verges on the worthy, it comes with enough self-reference to negate hackneyed moralising. And it’s completely and totally fun; Garbus’s live set-up emerges as a true party band. You know those guys in parks wearing parachute pants and juggling? Kind of makes you feel like they might have been right all along.

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