Tiger Bear Wolf
Tiger Bear Wolf
2005
A



you know that Heineken ad where a shagdomed Hendrix wannabe slays his audition only to pour a Heineken on his flaming guitar? The band, about to hire him but so damn insulted by his wasting ‘such quality beer’, cools instantly. Well, Tiger Bear Wolf sounds like they have three of those incendiary fuckers carving up the stage. And they ain’t never heard of Heineken.

For those of you looking to kick yourselves into fury and cool off in the migraines of ‘morrow, Tiger Bear Wolf shares your craving. Funneling torn-hair blues, shredded-instep, glass-in-heel guitar pyromania into their forceful rhythm section, this North Carolina four-piece—wound around the dueling guitars of Jonathon Moore and Noah Howard—has made the debut record the Constantines narrowly missed.

At the center of their songs is the tunneled weight of what can’t possibly be two guitars. And yet without the steady backbone of their rhythm section, Tiger Bear Wolf would be only a duo of axe-schooled leadmen. Drummer Lawrence Holdsworth must need an IV or two after every set, as his rhythmic shifts yank the songs around by the throat. With murky production that allows their music its natural grit, Tiger Bear Wolf cat-calls through the smog, with insensitive questions and queries to boot.

Forging the spitfire frenzy of the predator/prey dynamics in nature, each instrument is chomping at the bit to have at another, starved for seven days straight and locked up in a weather-carved cabin listening for the lock in the key and the drawn entry of guides with shotguns and rusty grins. Once finally set free, their eyelids peel back and unveil that rabid, slathering melee that you find in track-dogs and beaten-horses. Iggy Pop, Fugazi, and the edges of DC-hardcore whisper through their gas-fire screams, but such references sell the band short.

After the headrush of the album’s first two tracks, “Input, Output” is where the ipecac grabs hold and spews the rumbled mix all over the relative light and split-clarity of the openers. Moore and Howard’s growling rises to the top of a screamed-out chorus, trying and failing to climb over the assault of their multiple guitar parts. The track seems like it was recorded at an S and M party far too trendy for full disclosure but outré for flesh.

“You Play Guitar” is the album’s best track, a bulging-vein screecher whose vocal parts spit more than they sing. Polyneuronal drum fury curls around deep, rotten guitars like they need to be choked dead. “Bed Down,” on the other hand, begins like red-light blues, the needle-drop and release after the dogged crank of the first eight songs. Lines like “I’m gonna stretch your stomach skin” and “Am I not a very able-bodied man” add some pleading and threat to the band’s demand.

By album’s end, Tiger Bear Wolf have captured Kingdom Come seen across a bayou. They embellish their visions to create more than they witnessed. But Christ, you have to acknowledge the awkward largesse behind these cranky guitars and their howled-out vocal part. Sure, they’re most likely lying to you, and probably to themselves, but it’s a shared falsehood. Can’t you join in the chipped-tooth glamour of their claims, absurdities and pompous rock-god clichés like “I know one thing worth saving is rock and roll?” Of course, since Tiger Bear Wolf is highlighted by the elements you swallow but can hardly believe you’ve accepted.

After the bombast and the skeletal fractures, Tiger Bear Wolf wants to take your picture for posterity and watch as the Mississippi mud they’ve creamed all over your senses dries into new skin. What can you make of all this? How about Split-End Album of the Year.


Reviewed by: Derek Miller
Reviewed on: 2005-04-25
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