Miniature Tigers, one of 2008’s most promising breakout bands, seems to have mastered the recipe for a memorable album. It goes something like this:
1. Mix handful of Super Smash Bros characters, Wes Anderson films and David Bowie singles.
2. Lightly sprinkle with episodes of LOST and Frasier.
3. Set oven to Arizona desert and California sun-baked beach.
4. Cook for entirety of ABBA’s “Gold” album.
5. Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy Tell It to the Volcano, Miniature Tigers’ charming debut.
Even if the ingredients don’t tickle your eardrums, give the band a chance: their music is a heckuva lot more cohesive than their eclectic list of influences. Bandmates Charlie Brand, Alvin Shaier and Eli Brandom create a sound that appears to combine Of Montreal’s eccentricity, The Format’s catchiness and The Postal Service’s perceptivity, producing lighthearted, memorable tracks that develop a sing-along quality after only one listen.
Writing with startling honesty, Brand refuses to hide his emotion in a labyrinth of prose and metaphor – a refreshing approach, considering how much of today’s popular alternative music has become lofty and verbose. He keeps lyrics clear and focused, at times relying on childlike yet pleasant frankness to express his feelings.
In “Annie Oakley,” he sings: “I don’t want to move too slow/And end up all alone.” No words with more than two syllables, yet every listener can identify. On another track, Brand even resorts to the ol’ playground vernacular: “Tell me how you feel about me/Do you like or like like me?”
Brand houses his messages in brief, catchy choruses that permeate the album’s songs. While such simplistic structure and style make Tell It to the Volcano’s tracks easier to enjoy and appreciate, the repetitiveness may frustrate listeners who prefer more complex layouts. And it’s true: Miniature Tigers’ music is fun, but it’s just a smart quirkiness crafted within a generic pop formula.
Whether or not listeners appreciate the album’s lyrics, though, it’s hard to deny that Miniature Tigers have produced a collection of catchy, amusing melodies. Skillfully embedded vocal harmonies, guitar riffs and synthetic sounds give each track, even the ones dealing with the sorrow of unrequited affection, a satisfied, optimistic overtone.
Listening to the album’s title track, “Tell It to the Volcano,” it’s easy to see that the band likes to have fun with their music. During the chorus, an infusion of guitar and drum rhythms is complemented by a recurring chant of “oooomidliketochuckya,” in true island song fashion.
Tell It to the Volcano might be considered a weak sophomore or junior album, but it’s Miniature Tigers’ debut. As such, the harshest criticism listeners can make is that there isn’t more of it. (Short and sweet songs are nice, but they give the album a 29-minute runtime.) The band displays incredible potential and is already scheduling tour dates across the East Coast, tentatively scheduled for late October. So, even if you decide not to purchase the whole album, drop a dollar or two for “Tell It to the Volcano.” You’ll round out your iTunes library and feel good about yourself once you see Miniature Tigers on the cover of Spin.