I’m gonna throw out some band comparisons to give you an idea of what The Tunnel’s Carver Brothers Lullaby sounds like, but I want you to add the words “…only crappy” after each name, OK? Here goes: early Modest Mouse, Gordon Gano from Violent Femmes, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Yeah, The Tunnel definitely has a thing for ’70s punk of the artsy, snarling variety, but the duo of Patrick Crawford and Jeff Wagner (now augmented by third member Josh Layton) lacks bite.
Still, I’ll give the band some credit. They clearly went in with a concept, bookending the album with moody sound experiments. The print job is nice. It’s just those blasted tunes that fall short. Blame it on Wagner’s vocals, which tend to over-emote in any given direction. This guy seriously wants to combine Gano’s whine with Reed’s eloquence, but it just doesn’t click. Dude sounds wounded on songs like “Like a Hungry Knife” and “Your Veins,” but in a totally laughable way.
Unappealing vocals can be a dealbreaker for any band and, given the duo’s sparse arrangements, Wagner’s voice is definitely a mortal wound. Crawford is a decent drummer, but Wagner, yet again, comes off as a letdown on the guitar front. He’s either strumming or messing around with lackluster, meandering bits, never quite hitting that menacing tone struck by Blank Generation or Horses. The whole record is repetitive, neither compelling nor catchy.
I’d discuss the ho-hum lyrics, but by that point most people will have already tuned out The Tunnel. Considering all of the seminal protopunk albums out there, Carver Brothers Lullaby is disappointingly redundant.