Single Review: The Cost of Living – The Tunics

Manta Ray Music
On Release

By Guy Sangster Adams

“A video I made to try and make people put their weapons down..” is the caption to Twinona187’s YouTube video Stop Knife Crime which has The Tunics’ new single Cost of Living as a soundtrack, as do a number of other YouTube posts sharing the same message. Testament not only to The Tunics’ ability to lyrically and musically capture the inner city zeitgeist, but also the degree to which the availability of the track as a free download from the band’s website last spring, and their tour of universities has generated a significant and deserved online buzz.

This tale of gun-point mugging on a night bus, builds dramatically with Joe Costello’s urban poet spoken verses syncopating with Max Karpinski’s resolute drums, is then driven up a notch with Scott Shepherd’s melodic bass line, before battle is joined by Costello’s guitar as the rock in anger sung chorus is unleashed demanding “is this what free travel costs; a phone, and a wallet, and a new Ipod?” and begging the question of indiscriminate violence: “why did you do this to me?”.

This three-piece from Croydon, have distinct parallels to The Libertines¾who are a key influence even down to their name which is inspired by the NME cover photo of The Libertines wearing red, guardsman’s tunics¾and The Artic Monkeys, but then the single is produced by James Lewis who has also recently worked with the latter. But Cost of Living carries a greater resonance to another three-piece who came out of Surrey a generation ago – The Jam. Weller, as Costello is now, was 18 when The Jam’s debut single In the City was released. Cost of Living fuses the thematic ambition and augury of Down in the Tube Station at Midnight with the raw passion and drive of In the City (there is also titular similarity to The Jam in that The Tunics earlier single about knife crime was also called In the City).

Cost of Living may be rough edged but rough edged times call for a voice that is ready to ask questions with passionate insistence, immediacy and verve. The Tunics are imbued with that voice and a knowing that to stand on ceremony sandpapering a track into anodyne blinkeredness would be to miss both the point and the bus of the needs of the moment and their generation. Besides, The Tunics are a band just at the beginning of an exciting trajectory of which Cost of Living, the first release from their forthcoming debut album, provides a magnificent portent.

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