A highly intermittent entity gestated in the early '90s, the New Jersey duo known as cuppa joe consisting of Doug Larkin and Steve Spatucci dropped a new album last week, their first since 1999. Tunnel Trees is the title, and just so happened to be my introduction to this not-so-gruesome twosome, who commence this disk with the chiming post-punk inflected, "A Couple Whiles," which smacks of For Against circa their soothing and oft overlooked Shelf Life album. Yeah, I know that comparison doesn't exactly shed much of a light on things for the bulk of you. At any rate, I was hoping the remainder of Tunnel Trees would follow suit, but cuppa joe had an alternate brew on tap for this pair of ears.
The nine numbers succeeding the aforementioned "A Couple Whiles" are comparatively homespun organic guitar pop, occasionally whimsical and brimming with a potpourri of variations of the well-worn genre. There's a bit of a kiwi vibe infiltrating "Giving Up the Day" and "Some Might Call Us Happy," with both songs hinting at what Chris Knox/Tall Dwarfs were so blithely trying to convey a quarter century or so ago. "In the Shade of Tunnel Trees" and "Blue Sky Moon" flaunt a more robust sonic palette, while another key album highlight, "Forty" is a brisk, minute and a half burst of campfire pop, packing an infectious harmony. In short, even though I wasn't treated to the new For Against album I had initially anticipated, I got something just as rewarding, and you just might as well. cuppa joe have a healthy discography under their belts, just about all of which can be streamed under the "music" header of their webpage. If you're looking for even more of a shortcut, you can check out two tracks from Tunnel Trees below. You can obtain a hard copy of the album from Dromedary Records, as well as digital available from your vendorof choice.