“TIGER ARMY NEVER DIE!” – every Tiger Army intro ever.
Sometimes I think I love Tiger Army too much. The retro horror imagery is cool. The psychobilly rocking is neat. The songs about doom, death and/or Tiger Army’s immortality rule. “Tiger Army” is just a great band name.
Which is funny, seeing as Tiger Army was barely a band when frontman Nick 13 signed with Hellcat Records on the strength of an EP. Without a true backing band, he instead called upon his friends: AFI’s Adam Carson played drums while Rob Peltier (ex-the Quakes) handled upright bass (because screw your electric bass, man). Close personal friends Davey Havok and Tim Armstrong even turned out for backing vocals.
Even though the AFI guys weren’t quite, ya know, the AFI guys yet in the mainstream, Tiger Army still feels like a dream assemblage of musicians, which makes it tempting/disappointing to overhype what is essentially a beginning for most involved parties. This is Nick 13’s very first full-length. For further context, AFI was still tinkering with Black Sails in the Sunset when this album was recorded. On top of that, Nick 13’s self-production, while competent, isn’t quite as clear as what he would accomplish later on.
But for all the apologies, Tiger Army still rips. This is quality psychobilly. “Never Die” (that’s right, they don’t just save that phrase for the intro songs) is a rip rockin’ good time. “Nocturnal” establishes the band’s psychobilly template, while “Outlaw Heart” hints at the country vibe Nick 13 would cultivate on his solo record. And just so we’re clear, “Neobamboom” is still one of the best Tiger Army songs ever, both because of the sweet guitar licks and because of the title. Don’t even pretend otherwise, slackjawed hipster scum.
Tiger Army went on to even better places with Tiger Army II: Power of Moonlite, but as an opening salvo from what was (at the time) a slapdash band, Tiger Army holds up as mighty fine.