Tiger Army 

III: Ghost Tigers Rise

Like labelmates the HorrorPops, the soldiers in former East Bay punk band Tiger Army have abruptly repositioned themselves as leaders of a rumored psychobilly movement. But as I recall, psychobilly is a mix of psychedelic and rockabilly riffs (see the Cramps, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, and Alex Chilton after Big Star but before he decided he was an R&B artist). Sure, you don't have to go any further than Brian Setzer's Goodwill donations to see the similarities between punk and the music Memphis made: big tats, duckass hair, sneering lips, black sleeveless shirts, and three-chord guitar riffs. But once you get past the militaristic thrash intro "Ghost Tigers Rise" (Ti-ger/Ar-my/Ne-ver/D-i-i-i-i-i-e!), Tiger Army leaves behind all pretenses of punk and metamorphoses into -- gasp! -- a new wave band.

Not only can Army general Nick 13 sing, he sounds damned near winsome, recalling (with irredeemably delicate lines such as Deep in my heart is pain and anguish and We kiss in the Santa Clara twilight) ethereal British vocalists such as Howard Jones, the Fixx, the Call, and a host of other Martha Quinn-era favorites. There's certainly more guitar with a delectably twangy middle here than any of the aforementioned codependent keyboard groupings, and more often than not replacement drummer Mike Fasano drives the beat as well as Gina Schock (say what you will about the Go-Go's, but Schock was a damn good drummer). But since when was a tender singer welcome in a punk band?

Which is not to the say that Tiger Army's third full-length doesn't sound good. "The Long Road" (with able assistance from pedal steel player Greg Leisz) could hold its own on any alt-country jukebox. It's just that to sound this good likely means you're not quite as bad as you wanna be.

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