A redux of assorted retro
Tiger Army is an LA-based psychobilly band originally formed in Berkeley, CA, and is helmed by frontman Nick 13, the band’s singer, guitarist and lead songwriter. Their most recent LP, Retrofuture, was released last September, and had received raving renown, which is something not atypical or unfamiliar to this band. Pretty much ever since their inception they’ve been heralded as one of the best punk projects to be spawned out of the better half of the 21st century.
This LP is afflicted with ADHD and infidelity. It’s a promiscuous hodgepodge that alternates between, and sometimes even synthesizes: classic rock n’ roll, punk, psychobilly, spaghetti-western and ‘50s doo-wop. Yet, the one trick that prevails throughout is the trio’s modernization of bygone music (hence the befitting title).
The first track, “Prelude: Tercio De Muerte,” is something Quentin Tarantino would either get tumescent over or wouldn’t waste a second in jostling to the copyright to use in his final film… or, more probably, both. Although it’s just an opening instrumental, it really sets the soundscape and appetizes the listeners for the rest to come. It’s dark and spacey and evokes a scene of a posse of hyped-up interstellar outlaws with leering faces and glittering six shooters in transit on galactic motorcycles. This spaghetti-western sound also appears on “Sundown,” which features a baritone guitar riff limning out a showdown between two swarthy duelists in the dust while it continually comes back to a woah-woah singalong chorus.
One of the other discernible genres to be spotted in the album is punk. The third track, “Last Ride,” is evocative of the Dead Kennedys as the percussion picks up pace and there comes muted guitar strumming. But, it quickly devolves and loses all its virility when the lead singer starts to belt out these PG-13 woahs, so it very suddenly becomes edgy and relevant to about any prepubescent middle-schooler. Yet, the ninth track, “Eyes of the Night,” redeems all that pathetic power-of-friendship anathema in “Last Ride” by delivering a definitive punk song that has this incisive chain-saw guitar that lasts for a sweetly short minute.
There are even a couple love songs on the piece sung with Nick 13’s wholesome vibrato. There’s “Valentina” and “Mi Amor La Luna,” the second one completely sung in Spanish. Whether he’s serenading the same girl is never made apparent and it’d be frightful to think Valentina heard the other since hers comes first. Another subtle sign of promiscuity. Anyway, “Valentina” has a real oldies classic love-song type feel to it while “Mi Amor La Luna” is evidently inspired by classical Spanish.
Track six, “Devil That You Don’t Know,” is a bona fide psychobilly song. Through the campy horror lyrics and the reverb-laden, over-distorted rockabilly guitar and those primal, stentorian drums, it’s unapologetically Cramps-inspired. They are not even trying to hide it. Then somewhere along the way, the album diverges into something that vacillates between punk and metal, like something off of Metallica’s first album.
All in all, Tiger Army are downright deft on the instruments. It’s like it’s their singular function in life, as unerring and precise as those wind-up automaton toys. Even when faced up against seemingly any kind of music, they are unfazed. And they’ve asserted themselves once again in this LP. Retrofuture is an indelible doozy.