When Tiger Army released their fifth album, V…-, a couple of years ago it felt like Nick 13 and his crew had closed the book on past debates as to their status as a psychobilly band with a set of songs immersed in a kind of 50s film noir tone a step away from their more punk influenced sound of old, something continued with the follow-up Dark Paradise EP.
Now, with Retrofuture, it seems the band, completed by bassist Djordje Stijepovic and drummer Mike Fasano, have felt more free to explore a range of sounds that have led them back to their roots while also allowing them to explore more of those mid 20th Century sounds, capturing at least one aspect of the title.
As is traditional for Tiger Army the record begins with an instrumental introduction, Prelude: Tercio De Muerte, which sets the scene well before we are dropped in to some driving rock ‘n’ roll with Beyond The Veil which, as the title suggests, keeps the band’s ever present hint of darkness firmly intact.
This sense of dark romanticism is something that winds it way through the record coming to the fore on Valentina and, most notably, Mi Amor La Luna where Nick 13 again shows how he can use those hints of a latin flavour to add something more to the bands sound.
This also hints at the theme of the record that, while it’s not strictly a ‘concept album,’ certainly there is something conceptual holding the whole thing together. It feels like Retrofuture loosely traces the story of an evening and night in a fictional south west US desert town.
So, along with the hints of the darkly romantic, we also get a fairly heavy dose of powerful rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll that takes the band right back to their punk rock and psychobilly roots.
Last Ride gives us the first hint of that while Devil That You Know pulls in fuzzy guitars and a 60s go-go garage rock feel that slightly brings to mind The Cramps, before Death Card takes us fully into Tiger Army psycho territory with distorted vocals plenty of crowd chant-able ‘whoas’, hints of that classic AFI sound and, along with Eyes Of The Night, a sound custom made to induce a circle pit.
The production of the record, by Ted Hutt, also leans more to the punk rock side of things being noticeably more raw and rough than on either Dark Paradise, V…-, of precursor Music From Regions Beyond and in this, as well as the general tone, Retrofuture feels more like a follow-up to third album Ghost Tigers Rise and is part of what begins a newly revived energy to the whole thing.
As the album nears its end, with Black Neon, the feeling goes well past midnight with the feel and mindset that can only come in the small hours of a hot morning before instrumental Night Flower and closer Shadowlight bring us to the pre-dawn twilight closing off the night in a seedy motel (possibly run by a mother and her devoted son, or maybe I’m taking things too far).
Retrofuture then is something of a multilayered record.
I’ll admit that on first listen I didn’t quite get it, enjoying some of the songs but not grasping the feel of the whole, but after a couple of goes it becomes clear that the title refers to not just the band re-solidified and stepping forward by taking in aspects of their past but also the feel of making something new using sounds first heard fifty or so years ago while also feeling like it’s all set somewhere with the freedom of movement of Kerouac’s On The Road era but with the trappings of modernity in feel and style.
Tiger Army then have created an album that has a thematic core but crucially also contains some great tunes highlighted by a few numbers that, all being well, will be inspiring circle pits around the world as the band hit the road over the coming months.