“We’re so fucking bored of rock music and scared that punk is becoming its own version of conservatism” says Tigercub front man Jamie Hall of their debut album Abstract Figures In The Dark.
It’s this brash and youthful ennui that’s laced through the alt-noise-pop trio’s first release that makes it such an intriguing and unique listen. It’s rough around the edges; it’s introspective; it’s claustrophobic. In a world where we can often feel like everything is spiralling out of control, is there any wonder that bands like Tigercub are emerging, pissed-off and confused, from the remnants of our ex-industrial towns?
There’s a twenty-first-century anxiety that feels sewn into the very fabric of the band’s output, mostly discordant and harsh, but in places peppered with a wailing weirdness that’s perhaps most evident on tracks like ‘The Golden Ratio’ which stray into psych territory. Perhaps not surprisingly, Tigercub lean towards the darker side, a grim and twisted wreckage of the upbeat, pop-rock psychedelia that’s been so fashionable of late, a dark and disturbing reflection of the broken surroundings which have spawned them.
Hall (lead vocals and guitar) is ably backed throughout by Jimi Wheelwright (backing vocals and bass) and James Allix (drums), with all three pushing their instrumentation and musicianship to new heights on their full-length. Experimentation suits them well and there’s a beautiful array of interesting textures and ideas which meander in and out of tracks – a loop pedal on ‘Control’ conjures imagery of a broken musical box which twinkles gently over taut drums and distorted bass, opening out into a radio friendly chorus that feels completely at odds with the tense and dark middle eight.
As they continue to plough a distinct furrow that finds them landing somewhere between Radiohead, TOOL and The Fall (imagine that, if you can) Tigercub are increasingly painting themselves as a band of contradictory - or perhaps just contrasting - concepts, both musically and lyrically. The light of their quest for understanding in our fractured and tumultuous modern world creeps through the cracks and eerily illuminates the darkest corners of the record, preventing it from becoming a funereal dirge and elevating their song writing from feral lashing out to piercing critiques of an often troubling existence.
In places, Hall comes across as taking himself a little too seriously but just about succeeds in handling a brand of intellectualism that he’s not quite fully grown into yet. Alright sure, it’s a little naïve here and there, but how good does it feel to have young bands back in the frame who have something to say and aren’t afraid to do so? It would be extremely churlish to deride him for putting so much of himself into his music, but the fact remains that he’s at his best when revealing the raw, blistered truth of his own humanity rather than pontificating on the philosophical.
Album closer ‘Black Tides’ is perhaps the most impressive offering and draws influence from the likes of Nick Cave and Foals, a rich and sumptuous ray of hope that manages to claw its way out of the darkness of the album and provide a choral gospel testament to the impending Trump-influenced environmental apocalypse, as swelling voices refrain “if the sea doesn’t rise and the town stays dry I’ll be waiting by your side”. It’s a track which hints at something much bigger in the Tigercub arsenal than a few distortion pedals and some interesting arrangements, displaying a real song writing talent that’s waiting to be nurtured and could grow into something very special indeed.
If there’s one comfort to be taken from the lunacy that 2016 has so far bestowed upon the world, it’s that often the best art comes from adversity. With that in mind, and based on this offering, it’ll be thrilling to see where Tigercub go next.
7Jamie Otsa's Score