Sunna: One Minute Science

[14 August 2000]

By Wilson Neate

Sunna have quite the pedigree. Frontman Jon Harris played on Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and this debut is released through Massive’s Melankolic imprint, home to such diverse talents as Day One, Alpha, Horace Andy and Craig Armstrong. One Minute Science also features Lee Shepherd and Neil Davidge—other Massive Attack alumni—on mixing duties and, on top of that, Sunna are also from my hometown, Bristol. What more could you want?

A lot more, actually.

One Minute Science is the work of a slick angst-rock band who mix watered-down industrial signatures with totally forgettable—and completely marketable—melodic metal, throwing in a clutch of dour acoustic anthems for good measure. All perfectly executed, but totally inconsequential.

Sunna’s press release necessarily gushes over the “malevolent, dark, and sinister post-millennial” sound of this album. But the glossy surfaces of One Minute Science sound distinctly pre-millennial, and its hard rock is reduced to a bowl of nicely polished pebbles. If Sunna are foreboding and menacing, then so are Creed and Bush. When, on the crashing opener “I’m Not Trading,” Harris repeatedly tells his listener, “I don’t like you and I never will,” you have to stifle the giggles. Sunna aren’t half as hard as they’d like you to think.

The louder, more aggressive tracks on One Minute Science blend an Alice in Chains-style grunge sound with a Nine Inch Nails-lite aesthetic. The results are mildly addictive but fall more in the category of “guilty pleasures” than that of serious music with any kind of substance. The pounding “Power Struggle”—which you may have heard in the latest Paul Verhoeven movie Hollow Man—is a perfect example of this. And of course, it’s the first single from the album.

On several of their slower, introspective tracks, Sunna don’t so much take a leaf out of the Seattle book as meticulously copy out the whole volume word for word. While “I Miss,” with its melancholy strings, acoustic strum and crooned/rasped vocals, is recycled Nirvana, “Preoccupation” is downbeat Soundgarden, without the gritty choruses. The coda, the earnest grunge ballad “7%”—a lighters-in-the-air piece of self-indulgence if ever there was one—has stadium set-closer written all over it.

This album errs on the side of the predictable, the derivative and, at times, the plain imitative. Apart from a few rare moments like the epic “Grape”—with its periodic irruptions of intense whining guitar—Sunna come across as an unremarkable act trying hard to make themselves sound attractive to an audience of sullen adolescents or the more adventurous members of the American MTV teen demographic.

One wonders why a top-notch label like Astralwerks would invest in such mediocre, anachronistic fare. The bigger question, perhaps, is why would Massive Attack—a band who have been instrumental in pushing popular music in such exciting and innovative directions—accommodate on their own label a group who are unimaginatively recycling American rock cliches of the early ‘90s?

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/sunna-one/