Brighton neo-grunge trio Tigercub plays Kantine am Berghain on Sunday night (19/2). Here, the man behind the lyrics talks punk and penny farthings to Jem Bosatta.
“I’m not for a moment comparing us to the Beatles…” he protests, and I nod, relieved. Probably just as well. They get enough comparisons already.
Somewhere in between glass recycling and a bourgeois Victorian vehicle, you get the aesthetic Tigercub are looking for.
“We used to get likened to Nirvana all the time. It ended up overshadowing the music. Good songs are always gonna be good songs, but we sounded like other artists too much.”
There is one similarity, and only one, between this debutant Brighton three-piece and the most famous Liverpudlians ever. It’s a trait that’s lacking in many acts with far more fame than Tigercub (so far). It’s not a sound or a skill. It’s a state of mind, a state of insatiable hunger; it’s an addiction to evolution, a never-ending exploration of musical possibilities.
A tale of two cities
It’s the same trait that Jamie and his bandmates (Jimi and James) identify in the city of Berlin, and what gets them “all loved up” with the place. Locals will recognise the cover of Repressed Semantics with warm, fuzzy nostalgia: it’s a smoked-out Stadtreinigung bin in Kreuzberg.
Indeed our city, with ecological, progressive values and rampant self-expression, holds the same attraction as theirs: Brighton, west coast, home to the University of Sussex where Tigercub met and formed. “Brighton’s full of people who are escaping their hometowns in search of this liberal big one. It’s not unusual to see someone on a fucking penny farthing, you know.”
So somewhere in between glass recycling and a bourgeois Victorian vehicle, you find the aesthetic that Tigercub is looking for. Sort of. But their hunger goes beyond the horizons of self-expression and into the deep waters of politics and philosophy. A more helpful spectrum is that between punk and pop, anarchy and establishment, nihilism and conventionalism.
Post- neo- alternative-
“Punk rock’s been done,” Jamie says assuredly. “Done, done, totally just over. And nihilism is a cop-out. Existentialism, now that’s not a cop-out. This album, it’s a lot about being a twenty-something in the world and trying to figure yourself out.”
And if you listen to Abstract Figures in the Dark, Tigercub’s debut album out late last year, there’s a lot of grungey existential angst. But the album’s main objective was to capture the political climate of the time. With the seismic developments of the last few months, it’s easy to forget that we’ve been feeling the heat for far longer. In Spring 2016, Jamie sat down with legendary lyrics plastered across his wall and the headlines on his mind.
“There was a general shift to the right, but it was more than that: there was utter vitriol in the press and some seriously hateful language. We’re caught in a tectonic gap between the old world and the new world.”
If you were being cynical you could say that angry music suits angry times. Maybe that accounts for the resonance that neo-grunge or post-punk finds with today’s listeners. But the difference between the anti-everything hordes of the past and the angry mobs of today lies in the new kids’ hunger. Standing against everything has been done, done, done, and now there’s a desire to stand up for something better.
Addiction to evolution
That’s what I sense listening to Jamie and his records: hunger. It’s tangible on the level of the words and the music. His passionate lyrics bring together the political and the personal, just like the Greeks always intended – polis used to mean both ‘city’ and ‘citizen’ – and listening to the evolution of their releases shows even this early on how insatiable this band is when it comes to new sounds.
We hardly spoke about Nirvana, although that’s still probably the band they’re closest to. (Sorry Jamie – don’t be a successful grunge artist if you don’t like being called that.) We did cover Krautrock, Kraftwerk, industrial raves, Bowie and much more. We spoke about punk rock a lot, but mostly in criticism. And when it came to album recommendations, I came out with Queen and he chose Abba.
I don’t want to make the same record twice
So on Sunday night while your ears ring with overdrive and alcohol, take a look at the man on stage screaming “I’m never gonna wake up” and “They’re all dying for nothing“. And while you look at him, take a moment to reflect on the fact that he’s exceptionally well-versed in Kafka and, perhaps more remarkably, spent a good hour mid-week listening to the album with Seaside Rendezvous on it. I’m not going to make a joke about Brighton rock.
Tigercub is a band that won’t sound the same or say the same things next time they’re in town. Their dedication to the three-man setup will probably prevent them from going full Freddie, but it’s hard to predict. They’re the band to watch, and when they come back, to rewatch, and…