Before I get around to reviewing Bridge and Tunnel Club’s second full-length album, Next Best Letdown, I have to extend my gratitude to “Jen and Scott,” the duo that seems to be the driving force behind the B&T’s various projects. They’ve got a section of their website devoted to photographic walks down various streets and avenues of neighborhoods all over New York, including the outer boroughs. As someone who’s currently apartment hunting in heretofore unexplored regions (good-bye East Village; it’s been real, but I just can’t afford you anymore…), this feature is magnificent. I now know exactly what 7th Avenue in Park Slope looks like! Thanks guys, awfully menchy of you.
Most of their photographic efforts seem dedicated to Brooklyn, so it’s no surprise that their music is also steeped in the Borough of Kings. It’s not exactly a romantic portrait, more of an antihero’s equivocal love letter. The denizens of these songs, for one thing, seem to have drunkenly vomited all over the borough, and outside of it too, including into the East River from the Queensboro (aka 59th Street) Bridge – feelin’ not so groovy. That song, “Paint Peeling,” cleverly name-drops Paul Simon and makes dark humor out of the protagonist’s compromised state: “But what a rare opportunity to discover up close / The sturdy engineering of the Queensboro.”
For all the cliches, and endless supply of seedy bars and breakups, Bridge and Tunnel steadfastly refuses to take any of it too seriously. It’s always Huey Lewis calling out from those cinematic jukeboxes. Sadly, even parts that could rightly be taken seriously are undercut. The simple, elegent, pitch-perfect instrumental piece that opens the album – a meandering duo of viola and guitar – gets the title “I am NPR Bumper Music.” Sure, it does sound exactly like NPR bumper music, but why tip your pitches?
What Bridge and Tunnel Club finally has going is its uniqueness. These folks are not part of anyone’s scene. The booze and bars motif may be pretty common, but their casual, prosaic lyrics and homegrown sound are all their own, as is their outlook.