Tommy and June
Since Fat Wreck Chords began nearly 30 years ago, people have associated the label with a certain sound, and it’s safe to say it bears little resemblance to Tommy and June. The self-titled debut from the mysterious duo lacks the aggressive, overdriven power of the bands on Fat Wreck’s Mount Rushmore. Tommy and June’s 10 tracks stick mostly to acoustic guitars, breathy vocal harmonies, and a spirit indebted to Pete Seeger as much as Pete Shelley. But this isn’t power chords on acoustic guitars, or punks unplugging for novelty’s sake. Delicate finger-picking carries “Lonely Train,” “Adulthood,” and closer “Young Man Bones,” for instance. “Better Life Story” and “Monogamist” bounce with a folky jauntiness. “Mary Unfaithful” is a straight-up pop song that should soundtrack a montage in a romantic comedy. In a good way.
That said, Tommy and June isn’t coffeeshop chic. The distorted guitars and propulsive percussion of “Ghost of Paris,” located at the midway point of the album, will sound familiar to Fat Wreck fans. The organ-assisted “New Alive” is a hooky blast of new wave energy, which “Black Maze” picks up again toward the end of the album. Lyrically, Tommy and June has plenty of teeth. “Jetlag Blues” recalls the experience of Traveling While Brown, and “Adulthood,” “Better Life Story,” and “Young Man Bones” exude a punk rock defiance to the expectations of growing up.
Listeners who pay attention to the lyrics will hear enough clues to guess something about Tommy and June’s lives. But label co-founder Fat Mike—who assembled the duo like an impresario from rock ’n’ roll’s past—wants to maintain the mystery. He will say that he met Tommy in Israel a dozen years ago and encountered June, an Iranian who lives in Colombia, on tour in South America. Both were great songwriters but had never met. At the urging of Fat Mike, the unlikely duo – a Jew from Israel, and a Colombian Arab – united in the studio, and the result is 10 clean, simple, catchy tracks; clocking in at 20 minutes.