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TIGER BY THE TAIL aka UNITSHIFTER – Tiger By The Tail (self released)
So, here it is- the second Tiger By the Tail CD. Again, it’s a limited edition of 200 copies, self financed, self released and self titled, though the band call it “Unitshifter”, after the opening track. You may notice that it’s catalogue number is TBTT004, but don’t worry, you haven’t missed anything - 002 & 003 were t-shirts, not records.
This time round, they’ve lost some of the element of surprise that made the first one such a find. They’ve also opted to record it well out of town, down at Swampland in Little River, which may go a long way towards absolving that town from the stain of the awful 1970s MOR band who stole it’s name for their adventures in pap. But I digress. Although the production here is very different, this is still going to be instantly recognizable to anyone who has heard the first CD.
Let’s start at the start, with the alleged title track. It’s a cryptic but still scathing put down of someone’s sell-out, and pulls out the stops early on; massive walls of distorted guitar alternating with gentle picking and subdued feedback (or is “subdued feedback” a contradiction in terms?). As mentioned, the production is different to the first CD, with a much more live sound and less of that harsh metallic sheen. The vocals are still mixed down fairly low at times.
Lyrics this time round share the same concerns as previously- violence, intoxicants, hospital, death. Obsessive love and prison feature in “Don’t Get Out Much Anymore” although again failure and disappointment is in store before the third verse. Tourist bureau note- the “96” referred to here is a tram route that runs across town from St. Kilda to Brunswick, and does indeed pass a short block or two from the Melbourne Remand Centre on it’s way through the city.
There’s an instrumental here, “Accidental Genius”, that features some very fruity Hammond organ bouncing away in the background in “Telstar” mode, behind side-panning fuzz and wah wah- Joe Meek would’ve been proud.
“Summertime At The Beach”, the tune formerly known as “Cronulla” sets features of last year’s southern Sydney beach riots- car chases, violence, mobs organised by text message- against rock ‘n roll beach imagery courtesy of the Beach Boys & teeny weeny polka dot bikinis.
There’s more drugs and violence in “Poison”, the condensed story of a desperate crim on the run with his girlfriend- “Our world exploded/as we got loaded/and fucked it all to bits” It all ends, badly, in a farmhouse south of town… It should be mentioned that this all comes in a very handsome and low-key package, with another completely un-rock & roll cover photo.
Their first CD got international release via Spain’s Austro-centric Bang! Records label, though I see some original copies of that are going up on eBay already, and getting decent bucks too. It will be a shame if this one doesn’t get a wider local deal- until it does though, you can pick it up at Missing Link in Melbourne, or get it from the band direct at the upcoming launch gigs in Melbourne & Sydney, or contact them for mail order via their myspace. - TJ Honeysuckle
TIGER BY THE TAIL - Tiger by the Tail (Self released)
The contemporary commercial music industry can be likened to an enormous open cut mine, exploited by a conglomerant of multinational companies with an overzealous eye on escalating profits and a mildly sympathetic interest in unique mineral deposits. In the context of that ideologically constructed metaphor, Tiger by the Tail have released the equivalent of a rare gem. It may not be a diamond, nor indeed a gem that would attract a huge price on the open market – but it's something to treasure nonetheless.
Tiger by the Tail are in the ballpark once inhabited by the early scruffy Dinosaur Jnr, where guitars are less a conduit for polite melody and more a source of intriguing, wailing garage sounds. Dave Thomas' voice whines in a Joseph Mascis sort of a way – and could occasionally do with some production asssisted elevation to a position of prominence, but only if this doesn't detract from the splendour of the guitar attack. While there’s nothing to confirm it on the fairly sparse promotional material – does a sheet of paper with black texta credits constitute promotional material? – I’m assuming this is Dave Thomas, one-time guitar slinger with legendary Melbourne outfit Bored!, amongst other important Australian rock activities. (ED: Correct-a-mondo).
“Get Set to Go” is laden with wah-wahhed guitars, and is probably the only track on the CD that purports to stay on the same path it originates on. Old Habits starts unobtrusively, like a radio friendly Radiohead track, before exploding in a cacophony of noise and distorting vocal screaming – in a beautiful way. That (d)evolutionary pattern is honoured again in “I Heard You Got Released” before a seamless segue into “Would You Kill for Me” which consists primarily of driving riffs, some mutated vocals and a spiralling guitar solo that terminates the song. Another sleight-of-hand switch between tracks and “For Reasons Unknown” finds the band in the backblocks of Washington State and indulging in some translucent garage noise.
“Natural Enemy” is simply a festival of sound – it's an indulgent jam practised by lovers of excessive noise and manic tempo fluctuations, and I loved every moment of it. In contrast “Generator and The Secret Life of Sally Watson” are nicer – relatively speaking – the latter even edging toward romanticism with references to beautiful eyes and other matters of the heart.
As for the rest of the album? Just as good – it's a spicy soup of sonic experimentation, garage rock sensibility and disaffected social commentary. With only 200 copies allegedly on the market, this is something to hunt down and procure before it's too late.
- Patrick Emery