tUnE-YaRdS – w h o k i l l (4AD)

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By Brigette Adair Herron

I am never going to finish this tune-yards review. What is the problem here? Will my head explode if I listen to w h o k i l l one more time? There is only one thing I am certain about. tUnE-YaRdS annoys the ever-living daylights out of me.

I want to like this album. Ecstatic shouting. Jazz skronk freak-outs that hold the key to my heart. Innovative loops of noise, hand-layered with sophisticated elegance — a real passion for sound. At some point as I am listening, I imagine that each loop was sketched out by hand, designed to mimic the pulses of air from a butterfly’s wing. There are so many potentially earth-moving moments. Unfortunately, tUnE-YaRdS mastermind Merrill Garbus does not move my world with her voice.

When I listen to this album nothing in my world moves. I am unbelievably still. I become frustrated in my boredom. Also, I feel alone because w h o k i l l has received very little negative criticism.

I’m going to trust you, the theoretical reader, from now on. I will trust that you are aware that I have the best of intentions. I’m not looking to make Merrill cry. But I refuse to be bored. This album is not bad. This album is not good. I really wish I hated it! I wish I could work up a good rage! It is just … whatever.

I kind of feel like this guy:

I guess I’m having a hard time committing.

Who could blame me? After listening to w h o k i l l, I do not feel inspired. Only exhausted. Everything feels forced, and dramatic simply for the sake of being dramatic. The more I listen the more her voice puts me on edge. I could go on about the words and the content of each song on this album, but you can just look it up for yourself. Here is what I hear:


It reminds me of a time when I was in Elementary School. I went over to a schoolmate’s house and her mom kept offering me sweet tea. The problem was, I hated sweet tea. So I politely declined and asked for a glass of water. Then the mom asked me, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I don’t like sweet tea. Thank you,” I replied.
“But you’ve never tried MY sweet tea, it’s the best.”
I said, “No thank you.”
And she, looking as though I had slapped her in the face replied, “Well why don’t you just TRY it.”

So at the end of this very uncomfortable 60-second round of passive-aggressive nonsense I found myself having to drink a huge glass of iced sweet tea. It was like drinking bath scum. But then I realised something incredible. “I don’t have to be here. I don’t have to drink this tea. I can go home. I want to go home! How do I get to go home?” And then I think I cried until my mom came and picked me up.

This is how I feel listening to Garbus sing “What’s a girl to do when she’ll never be a rasta?” with all of the exuberant affectation, the wide-eyed stares, the face paint. All of this effort, I feel like it wants something from me. I feel like because Garbus is making such a big production out of all of this, then I am supposed to be moved in some way. The truth is I just can’t relate to her world.

(continues overleaf)

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