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+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
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The Tigers
Christmas Album
Sensory Projects

The Tigers have some friends in the right places. Or a deft hand in searching out email addresses. Or, just possibly, a killer catalogue of music. I say this in light of the names who cut, pasted and generally screwed with the band's material on their previous full-length, Remixes: Papa M (Dave Pajo), Guided by Voices (Doug Gillard) and others.

And in one of those proficient moves that reviewers like to pull, I'll now declare that if Papa M and Guided by Voices were two metropolises on opposing sides of a world map, say, for the sake of spatial equilibrium, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires, you'd find Western Australia's The Tigers as the flourishing rural town in between. Utilizing some of the guitar-interplay smarts and rhythmic shifts of Papa M and Slint, The Tigers temper that sound with a pop edge that's not quite as classic-rock hook-laden as Guided by Voices, but still offers the best most indie bands can muster: memorable little guitar bits and witty lyrics.

The title of opener "There Are So Many Stupid People in This World" will give you some idea of the not-so-earnest yet still serious songs included here. The track uses the tension-build-release model to perfect effect, starting with a drumless trot and working up to a powerful gallop at its climax. It begins slowly as guitars are delicately finger-picked, playing the song's first melody as Chris Cobilis sings "I feel like I could explode at any given moment/ All over, all over the pavement" with an air of resignation before building to a layered and loose climax. The drums drop away again as Cobilis offers "I feel like a teenager all over again/ So much that I could explode" before the song's first-half structure is repeated again, this time with an even bigger climax as Cobilis cries out the track's title. It's loose, fun and serious — all at the same time.

Elsewhere The Tigers indulge in a vocal turn that is decidedly emo styled ("Slayer Bells") — one guy screams while the other guy sings — although the music is thankfully more reminiscent of the Birthday Party, Calexico and Sonic Youth than, say, Thursday. The sombre guitar-picking, chiming vibraphone and low-key drumming of "Fletch" suggest Chicago-inspired acts such as the Mercury Program, while the trumpet's bandleader turn and quick drumming of "Fatality" conjures Doug Scharin's dub project HiM, before it dips into the murky world of atonal dirge that bands such as The Boom have done from time to time.

With so many reference points, it may sound like The Tigers are a derivative antipodean outpost, a clearinghouse for all that Chicago and New York offered a few years back. But the primary difference here is that while the U.S. acts were stop-on-a-dime tight and fueled by a certain tension, The Tigers are loose and seem like the gangly, ungainly brother of that Chicago scene. They're by no means worse for this — indeed the looseness provides a whole other kind of tension which seems to come from the Birthday Party lineage of a portentous "stand back, this shit could blow up at any minute" style: chaos, calamity and unsteadiness. There are wrong notes, guitars that slip out of key — even ideas that don't quite work — yet all these elements pull together to create a whole that is entirely satisfying and engaging, for it doesn't trade purely on genre conventions, expectations and boundaries. And that's not just some colonial "encouragement award" (you know, "it's good, for an Australian band"). This record can breathe fresh and needed air into the worldwide guitar-based post-rock field, and maybe even the straight-up, no-frills rock field as well.

by Ben Gook

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