Album review: Tiger Army – Retrofuture
A matching retro revival
Tiger Army are a Los Angeles-based psychobilly group originally formed in Berkeley, California, and lead by frontman Nick 13, the band’s singer, guitarist and lead songwriter. Their most recent LP, Retrofuture, was released last September, and had received a delirious fame, which is not something atypical or unknown for this group. Pretty much since their inception, they’ve been touted as one of the best punk projects to come to light in the better half of the 21st century.
This LP has ADHD and infidelity. It’s a promiscuous mishmash that alternates, and sometimes even synthesizes: classic rock n ‘roll, punk, psychobilly, spaghetti-western and doo-wop of the 50s. However, the only trick that prevails all throughout the trio is the modernization of the music of yesteryear (hence the title befitting).
The first track, “Prelude: Tercio De Muerte”, is something Quentin Tarantino would either get tumescent or waste a second scrambling for copyright to use in his latest filmâ¦ or, more likely, both. While this is just an opening instrumental, it really sets the soundscape and whets listeners an appetite for the rest to come. It’s dark and spacious and evokes a scene of a band of supercharged interstellar outlaws with peeping faces and six glittering shooters in transit on galactic motorcycles. This spaghetti-western sound also appears on âSundown,â which features a baritone guitar riff developing a confrontation between two swarthy duelists in the dust as it continually returns to a chorus singing woah-woah.
One of the other discernible genres to spot on the album is punk. The third track, “Last Ride”, evokes the Dead Kennedys as the percussion picks up and there is a muted guitar strumming. But, he quickly escalates and loses all of his manhood when the lead singer starts slamming those PG-13 woahs, so it very suddenly gets nervous and relevant to just about any prepubescent college kid. Yet the ninth track, “Eyes of the Night,” redeems all that pathetic anathema to the power of friendship in “Last Ride” by delivering a definitive punk song that has that incisive chainsaw guitar that lasts a sweet minute.
There are even a few love songs on the piece sung with the healthy vibrato of Nick 13. There’s âValentinaâ and âMi Amor La Lunaâ, the second sung entirely in Spanish. That he serenades the same girl is never obvious and it would be scary to think that Valentina overheard the other since hers comes first. Another subtle sign of promiscuity. Either way, âValentinaâ has a real classic love song type feel, while âMi Amor La Lunaâ is obviously inspired by classic Spanish.
Track six, “Devil That You Don’t Know”, is a true psychobilly song. Through the campy horror lyrics and reverb-laden, over-distorted rockabilly guitar and those primitive, Stentorian drums, he’s undoubtedly inspired by Cramps. They don’t even try to hide it. Then somewhere along the way, the album diverges into something that swings between punk and metal, like something from Metallica’s debut album.
Overall, Tiger Army is downright skilled on the instruments. It is as if it was their singular function in life, as infallible and precise as these automatic winding toys. Even in the face of apparently any type of music, they are unfazed. And they have once again asserted themselves in this LP. Retrofuture is an indelible doozy.