Tiger! Tiger! – Backing the Wrong Horse

I’ve seen Tiger! Tiger! play numerous times in the six years since Cut Them Where They Bleed – enough that many of the songs on their new LP Backing the Wrong Horse were immediately familiar the moment the needle hit the wax. Seriously, I found myself pulling out their previous records just to verify that they hadn’t re-recorded some tracks. That’s not to imply that they’re repeating themselves, just a testament to how strong and memorable their best material is – songs that you may’ve only seen them play live two or three times make such an impression that by the time they’re released on an album you could swear they had to have been on an older one, being that you already know them so well!

So the gaps between albums keep getting longer but the payoffs are growing sweeter. This is one of those rare bands that didn’t blow their best wads on their earliest releases, with diminishing later returns. If anything, Tiger! Tiger! have progressively gotten better, reaching new peaks at a point in their existence where less gifted and less dedicated groups would’ve long ago petered out. While still embracing their boisterous garage-rock foundation, they’ve successfully navigated well beyond it into a realm of freedom where the possibilities aren’t restricted by category. They simply sound like Tiger! Tiger! And that’s a great thing.

Three other factors in the band’s staying power: they are excellent songwriters, shrewd arrangers and fantastic musicians. You can bear witness to all of that on “Broken,” “Hold the Door,” “The Sun Won’t Come” (jeepers, the viciously venomous guitar solos Shane Pringle rips out on that one!), “Yesterday’s Men,” the title track and many others. In another era, I could imagine hearing “Punching Above Your Weight” blasting from the car radios of cool kids worldwide, it’s such perfect rock ‘n’ roll single material; at the very least, it oughta make Little Steven’s “Coolest Song of the Week,” or whatever it’s called.

It says something of the balance of talent that while guitarist/vocalist Buffi Aguero is the clear centerpiece of the combo, with bassist/vocalist Susanne Gibboney a captivating counterpoint, two of Wrong Horse’s standout tracks are “The World Keeps Bringing Me Down” and “Book of Dreams,” which are driven vocally by Pringle and drummer Mario Colangelo, respectively. And Sam Leyja’s organ just plows through the curves of these songs with unwavering purpose and aplomb. There’s no element here that’s disposable.

I haven’t even mentioned the cover art (another area where Tiger! Tiger! have been sprinting far beyond the pack) by Tami Gardner depicting symbols of luck, or the mighty fine job Jeff Walls (The Woggles) did producing the tunes. Suffice to say, it’s a damned impressive presentation all around, and you are hereby advised to procure a copy and slap it on your stereo pronto.

Tiger! Tiger!
Backing the Wrong Horse
[Chicken Ranch]