Tigercats’ debut LP Isle Of Dogs (or I Love Dogs as it is known in my house) is one of those rare albums that on first listen clears a space inside your brain and makes itself comfy because it knows it’s going to be sticking around for quite a while. Neon Filler website recently gave the record 10/10; the only other album they have ever awarded a perfect score to is London Calling, and despite the 35 year gap, the difference in production values and the fact that one was by one of the biggest bands in the world and the other by a small indie outfit led by the bloke from Esiotrot, the two are comparable; both are a vital slice of life in the capital with not a single wasted second, so vivid you can almost smell the petrol fumes. However, The Clash sold 2 million copies and played Shea Stadium, Tigercats have pressed 500 and are playing to nine people in a small pub in Brighton. So it goes.
Support came from the omnipresent Bobby McGees who also put the night on. Their ukulele led tweecore now has an added horn section, songs that would make The Vaselines blush and more indie references than you can shake a (Pooh) stick at. Jimmy’s beard is getting more amazing by the day and he has to be one of Brighton’s most enthusiastic frontmen. As he runs around the pub with a hat, getting people to donate 50p to cover the petrol for one of the best bands in the country yet another death knell is heard for the music industry.
The Horse and Groom is a great venue for this sort of thing. No massive PA, no fancy lights, just five people squashed into an area the size of a small shed trying not to bash each other with guitars. The stage is so narrow the formation is pretty much 1-1-1-1-1, with singer Duncan Barrett at the head, looking as though he has just woken up in the washing basket.
His half-spoken/shouted vocals are both naïve and forceful at the same time, opener “Coffin For The Isle Of Dogs” starts as a band mission statement over a motorik backdrop, briefly becomes a group playground chant and finally erupts into a maelstrom of crashing guitars with a simple keyboard line holding the whole thing together. Elsewhere the music recalls the ramshackle giddy rush of early Talking Heads, all the while Barrett’s deadpan vocals sounding like Darren Hayman in a strop fronting a Vampire Weekend that can’t really be arsed.
Bassist Giles Barrett and guitarist Stefan Schafer look like they are having the time of their lives whilst keyboardist Laura Kovic spends most of the set, looking at the ceiling lost in a daydream, occasionally contributing backing vocals. The band run through most of the album, throw in a couple of b-sides (including vegetarian anthem “Nude With Dogs” featuring the brilliant singalong chant of “fuck you for eating my animal friends”), and end with “Easter Island”, one of the best indie singles of recent times, with its clattering rhythms and disco guitar lines interspersed with sporadic explosive thrashes. All in all, a fantastic little gig from Tigercats, hopefully they’ll return to these parts very soon.