Opening with spacey, retro, synths and melancholy violins, there’s a delightfully palpable air of anticipation to this new LP from Tiger Shadow, and when Komla MC’s distinctive and playful lyrics crop up ‘And do it in reverse/Bosh Bash Bish.’ the track finds a swaggering, downtempo groove, that builds to a truly spine-tingling chant of the track’s title Oh No, Overflow! ‘If the beat misbehaves, discipline it’ chants Komla over erratic drums and avant garde synths – courtesy of Jim Tycho, as the track continues, turning into a sprawling manifesto for the Tiger Shadow ethos.
It’s followed by the wonderfully funky squelch of Baxter’s Revenge (Trap Digger), Komla’s lyrics fluttering around like brightly coloured birds, whilst Jim provides regal synth lines. It’s a bouncing, joyous little number, a flighty two minutes of utter brilliance. It’s followed by Don’t Try This At Home which is a breathtaking little one minute forty eight seconds, Komla’s lyrics cheekily referencing the likes of Agadoo and fairytales, lurching into anthemic chants wrapped up in gorgeous string arrangments that swell and shiver elegantly and excitingly.
A stomping beat drives Prepare Thyself, strutting along with justified attitude, Komla rapping about non-conformity and hard-work, there’s a definite sense of ‘concept’ to this album, if it’s possible to create prog-rap then perhaps that’s what Tiger Shadow have done here. Each track, though distinct, is part of a whole idea. Even when Tried & Tested seems like it could just be a ‘dance’ tune, its chorus of ‘Move to the rhythm’ begins to take on a double-meaning, chiming with those previous non-conformist rhymes to serve up a spoonful of subtle satire amongst its inherent danceability. It’s gloriously produced as well, sad strings swirl amongst the bubbling bass and stabs of game show-like synth, Komla’s voice layered into a commanding force on the choruses prompting body moving regardless of location or inhibition.
There’s the soft, pensive Red All Over that gives way to the wide-eyed ode to home that is Monsoon Too Soon, its rainy sounds and bird tweets move the track into the thematically similar Serene Trampoline (Petrichor), a dreamy beautiful song with heart-warming backing vocals, the production by Matt Peel is lush and evocative, it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye, you’ll feel homesick even if you are home already.
What Were They Thinking feels like a total gut punch after the brightness of the previous track, its gurgling, ominous strings strip all the light out of your heart, and you’re left staring into cinematic greyness. ‘The audience can’t keep on eating the same old food,’ Komla opines over a crunching industrial beat, weaving a tale about musicians delivering the same old production line dance music whilst the ‘ship is sinking’. It’s a theme close to the band’s heart, a point made so brilliantly before on their track Terracotta Blues, and Komla articulates it poetically, humourously and bittersweetly here.
Tycho’s guitars have a snarl that compliments Komla’s baritone on Proof Of Concept superbly, twinkly vibes dancing in the middle ground. It comes as a surprise then when it takes a sudden halt and turns into the light dancey sounds of Standard Response, Komla chucking out reams of witty couplets (‘See you later alligator/It’s all a pile of croc.’) whilst the instrumentation is equally as arch.
Helter Swelter has Vangelis-like synth swells alongside its hi-tempo drum beat, Komla nods to the history of Tiger Shadow in knowing fashion offering a lyrical olive branch to former bandmates, before a delightfully barmy chorus with clattering percussion and fizzy robotic whistling draws the song to a close. Vocal synths punctuate Locomotion as Komla’s lyrics take in all manner of topical subjects with scattershot abandon, his choice of imagery is wonderfully macabre (‘ketchup haemorrhage’), and the chorus – as the title suggests – doffs its cap to the Kylie Minogue pop-hit, though its focus is more on working grind than the top 40.
Hippo Electric is a poem spoken over a stammering beat and quirky vibes, ‘Whatever happened to the protest song?’ Komla wonders, whilst dressing down other singers who ‘give their fans a doodoo verse’. On Don’t Be Scared his target is laddish, violent behaviour, ‘Grow up and try to be a man, son.’ The chorus, a mantra, is sung in an uplifting lilt, complimented by a mob chorus. Meanwhile Bright and Gloomy reflects on the creative process of Tiger Shadow, reminding the listener that they are indeed a ‘family friendly’ band, louche organ-lines trickle through the track giving it a suave supper-club vibe.
Penultimate track Abject Happiness has the most apparent pop sensibility, its chorus is the most ‘song’-like of all those on offer. Despite its refrain of ‘We’ve had it up to here’ there’s a certain optimism to this song; ‘You can always keep blaming your boss/Or get out the frying pan and cut your loss.’ Its shimmering production has a William Orbit-feel to it. The record comes to a close with Imagine My Surprise, its beat builds to a march on the chorus, gathering the troops up, tapping your foot, Komla casts his net wide and Tycho matches him by letting his instrumentation explore a few styles, ending on a sweet, twinkly keyboard line that evaporates into humble silence.
This record is so clear in its vision, and so articulate in its delivery, it’s very hard to fault, it is a very full album and a bit long, but its stuffed with so many wonderful and imaginative ideas that you’re more than ready to hit play again by the time the CD stops spinning. It’s a marvellously personal and intimate album with a sound that is experimental, epic, playful and danceable, all in all, an utterly stunning album.