Every once in a while an album comes along that effortlessly fuses musical genres in ways that had previously been unimaginable. Sunna's One Minute Science isn't one of them.
What makes this unfortunate is that this five-piece UK band (which augments the standard bass-drums-guitar setup with a DJ and a knob-twiddling vocalist) looks on paper to be the great white rock hope. Signed to Melankolic (founded by trip-hop visionaries Massive Attack) and distributed in the United States by Astralwerks (the label that gave us esteemed genre gate-crashers Fatboy Slim, the Chemical Brothers and Air), Sunna would seem to be just the kind of unknown quantity that comes along once in a while to shake things up a bit. But one listen to the album makes it clear that Sunna frontman and songwriter Jon Harris doesn't transcend his influences; he merely does an adequate job of imitating them.
For instance, "Power Struggle" (RealAudio excerpt) (with its howled chorus, "I was made to cry/ I was made to fry/ You were made to die!") sounds like a Soundgarden song Filter-ed through Trent Reznor's mixing board. Sporting foot-stomping Godzilla beats, some properly placed blips and bleeps, a hard-rockin' psychedelic chorus, and dirty, digitized guitars, the song's approach is echoed in many of the album's similar-sounding tracks, such as "Insanity Pulse" (RealAudio excerpt) and "I'm Not Trading."
Sunna are, first and foremost, Harris' vision, and the players in his band seem to conform to his vision by not showing much musical personality they could almost be session musicians. DJ Flatline isn't really given much room to roam, guitarist John Harris is a faceless power-chord cruncher and the dominance of electronically produced rhythms make drummer Richie Mills' presence almost an oxymoron.
Most of the album's 11 songs alternate between midtempo electronica-rimmed tantrum rock and balladry. "Preoccupation" (RealAudio excerpt), which recalls Nirvana at its prettiest, quietest moments, is the best of the latter type. Armed with an acoustic guitar, and a heart worn on his sleeve, Harris opens the song with the line, "I'd laugh if it weren't for my tears," before moving on to even more painful subject matter. It's a musical formula he repeats over and over on "I Miss," "OD," "7%" and "Forlorn" (the song titles, obviously, speak for themselves).
Rather than being a much-hyped great leap forward, Sunna have instead jumped in the way-back machine and set their time-traveling radio dials for 1994, when lumbering grunge riffs stomped across the land, Trent Reznor still wanted to f--- you like an animal and dudes writhed on MTV like they had too much angst in their pants. To paraphrase Robert Plant and David Byrne, Sunna's songs remain the same as it ever was.