Tigers Jaw - Tigers Jaw (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Tigers Jaw

Tigers Jaw (2008)

Prison Jazz

New bands almost never live up to the lofty comparisons to other, more seminal bands made by people like me, but that's not gonna stop me from telling you that this self-titled full-length from Tigers Jaw is probably something you'd like if you're into the Get Up Kids or any other `90s emo band. Just fill in the blank, really. And while Tigers Jaw may be nodding to their influences, they're doing so inconspicuously, offering a fresh take on a genre that should have gone bad years ago.

The band relies heavily on crunchy, mid-tempo instrumentation that's just warm enough to evoke without overdoing it. The driving nature of the opening bars of "The Sun" makes it a great first track, and the deliberately darker, heavier sound of the rest of the song is a bit off-putting at first, but starts to make sense after a few listens. Those dual low/high vocals are a nice touch, too. Ditto for the charmingly discordant "Arms Across America."

Speaking of vocals, they get pretty raw and vulnerable on "Plane vs. Tank vs. Submarine" and "Chemicals," both of which feature some solid guitar work in the form of weeping, goosebump-inducing solos. Strong vocal harmonies and bouncy guitar work carry both "I Saw Water" and "Heat" to heights other bands would have a hard time reaching. The vocals do get a tad sloppy on the uptempo "I Was Never Your Boyfriend," but it's more endearing than distracting.

"Between Your Band and the Other Band" is the magnum opus of this release, a near-five-minute track that runs a gauntlet of different sounds and, by association, emotions. The chord progressions utilized here are simple, but perfect in conveying the somber demeanor of the song. There's also a simple keyboard part that adds an extra layer of warmth underneath the crashing drums (seriously, I don't think I've ever heard more cymbals in one song) and distorted guitars.

Ironically, "Never Saw It Coming" is the token pseudo-acoustic closer, rife with vulnerable, slightly off-key vocals and some gang "whoa"s before the full band kicks in for the final 45 seconds, drums crashing like there's no tomorrow. And since the record ends after that, I guess there isn't.

Tigers Jaw isn't a record that will blow you away with gusts of originality, but for a debut, it's a more accomplished and enjoyable record than many of their contemporaries could ever hope to muster.