17 May 2009

Tiger - We Are Puppets


Label: Trade 2
Year of Release: 1996

I must admit I had really high hopes for Tiger, and judging by their earliest music press coverage (which was largely favourable) so did a great many other critics out there with a much greater knowledge of what was "going down" than I ever had access to. As an idea alone, the band were brilliant. The ex-art student frontman Dan Laidler was almost painted as being an idiot-savant by the music press, and he freely confessed that he didn't have much interest in music at all, owned about three albums and just formed the band based on some ideas he'd barked into a tape recorder in his bedroom.

If this sounds like a slightly underwhelming prospect, it's largely believed that the introduction of guitarist Julie Sims into the equation helped to smooth over the more extreme outsider edges, and created a concoction of tunes which sounded disjointed, scruffy, and slightly naive but still very appealing in a post-punk/ krautrock way. "Race" and "On The Rose" (both featured here) are actually stunning little singles with some of the more wonderful, buzzing guitar noises and primitive pulsating rhythms you'll hear, complete with absurd, scattergun lyrics, and quirky and sudden tugs in the arrangements - it's hard for me not to pull in comparisons to early Wire in places, only unlike Elastica or Menswear, Tiger were rougher and were closer to the devil-may-care spirit of the band (and, crucially, appeared to have more tunes of their own). The main guitar riff for "Race" alone sounds like a knackered car continually trying to rev its way out of deep mud, then ends with a primitive (and presumably guitar effects pedal driven) electronic engine noise. It's all very primal and punkish sounding, but I struggle to think of many bands of that ilk who would be willing to combine it with that kind of arty imagination now.

So what went wrong, then? Primarily I would argue that Tiger both looked and sounded too unorthodox for mainstream consumption. Dan Laidler's voice frequently sounds like a protesting sealion, and (with the exception of Julie Sims, who most definitely was attractive and sported lots of tight leather stagewear) the band made an enormous virtue out of their provincial ordinariness, having their hair "styled" into mullets amongst other fashion war-crimes. Obviously, I should make it clear at this point that I have absolutely nothing against such behaviour in the world of pop, but it seldom translates into mass public appreciation, and at a time when the so-called indie scene was having an obsession with cute cover stars, it was never going to come across very well when a band attempted to pride themselves in how average looking they were.

On top of that, this album was recorded a mere year after the band formed, and the lack of variation in its style probably alienated many listeners. In fact, confession time - as a whole, I do find that it drags a little, and sounds rushed in places. Equally, Laidler's naive slogan-orientated lyrics can be either charming or just plain attention-seeking whacko, and when tracks veer towards the latter writing style it can get faintly irritating. That doesn't stop some of the tracks on here being an absolute joy to listen to, but a "lost classic" it isn't, just a rather good piece of work which deserved better than its pathetic placing of number 108 in the British charts.

One other album followed - "Rosaria", which was issued in 1999 after their record label dropped them - and that seems to have been that. A shame, but we can perhaps take some comfort from the fact that "Race" just scraped the Top Forty, a feat I can't imagine a similar single achieving in the present day.

1. My Puppet Pal
2. Shamed All Over
3. Race
4. Bollinger Farm
5. Storm Injector
6. Depot
7. On The Rose
8. Sorry Monkeys
9. Cateader Reddle
10. She's OK
11. Ray Travez
12. Keep In Touch

Download it here


Simon said...

Pretty difficult to imagine a similar band getting this sort of opportunity too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEB_Q__jO5o

Michael said...

I've been ripping all my CDs (and now singles) onto my computer, and did 'We Are Puppets' recently. I have to admit I've never been able to sit through it the whole way to this day, but I do agree that "Race" is a cracking wee single and that it would never sneak through the gates these days.

However, I do think that there's something of Tiger about Art Brut, I'd put money on Mr Argos being at least an admirer.

23 Daves said...

You've got a point there, Michael. I don't think I've ever heard Eddie Argos mention Tiger in an interview (or on stage - he is prone to rattling off lists of bands he thinks should be "Top of the Pops") but there is a slightly similar noise going on.

As for that Youtube clip, that takes me back to the post-Morning Glory days when if the music press said an act were going to be "huge", they automatically got right of entry on to all sorts of TV shows in case they were the next Oasis. I'm sure there must be more examples of this phenomenon out there somewhere - Urusei Yatsura on This Morning, perhaps?

Stonehenge said...

Beautiful stuff. My girlfriend of the time was obsessed with Tiger, and as a result, I heard a lot more from this band that I might have otherwise dimissed as hype. They really were very good. At the time I was obsessed with the likes of the Modern Lovers first LP, Roxy Music, Hawkwind and Quickspace, and Tiger seemed to fuse all of these things into a rather delightful confection. Well posted, Sir!

Stonehenge said...
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Stonehenge said...
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SidRocker said...

This was a great band..indeed on the left side of the music scene. Their sound was a bit rougher and their looks not the polished one the media love so much. Yet, they deserved more than what they've got in the short time the band played together. Except for two of their single releases, I am happy to have their cds and indulge myself in their wall of sound.

Anonymous said...

Where's Julie Sims now?

23 Daves said...

Good question! I've no idea. Dan seems to still have some kind of web presence, but the others have completely disappeared.