Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Tiger B. Smith—
Tiger Rock


Released 1972 on Vertigo
The Seth Man, June 2002ce
Seeing that the images from the same photo session were used as the artwork all over their sole two albums, I get the distinct feeling that Tiger B. Smith was not a going concern for any longer than three years, tops. And I get an even stronger feeling that they never toured (forget even copping an TV appearance on Musikladen in their native West Germany) or did anything to promote their records except to doll up massively for the aforementioned photo shoot. Ha: guitarist/vocalist Holger Schmidt’s get up is as outrageously glam-bang as anything donned by The Sweet in their prime, which is a pretty tall order (And speaking of tall, Schmidt’s silver boots are not only just that but he’s also wielding a fake third pant leg with YET another matching boot -- just like The Sweet’s guitarist did on their performance of “Blockbuster” on Top of The Pops, come to think of it -- AND all three bear the group name running up the sides) while letting loose with a hammed up ‘roar’ for the camera through parted purple lips from his bearded, afro-topped head. The other two members of the tiger gang visually come on just as strong: mustachioed bass player Klaus Meinhardt displaying Iggy’s “Raw Power” cheetah head jacket design on the front of his shirt (visible in-between the part of his flowing cape) as drummer Karl-Heinz Traut looks every inch a campy nightmare while his tiger skin barely keeps adhered to his puffed out chest. Makes you think they look INTENSELY silly as well as casting the group as possibly nothing more than a trio of aging session men caught in a last desperate attempt at stardom, unashamedly caught in the act of sacrificing what little self-esteem, pride and common sense they had left kicking around in their heads during their 15 minute tenure on the altar of fame.

Dismissing the possible theory of blackmail and despite (or because) of all the above, I believe in Tiger B. Smith. Not only because they rock up a storm heavier than glam on “Tiger Rock” but I also love the how far out of their way they went to look so embarrassing. Because the only people it embarrassed were infernal snobs and straights lacking any vision as well as (more importantly) a sense of humour. And despite several ill-advised ballads and damp-as-a-fart-in-a-birdcage ‘progressive’ forays they inserted into their otherwise fine second LP two years later, I think they knew EXACTLY what they were doing. Which makes them even funnier, far more likeable and (face it) totally rock’n’roll. “Tiger Rock” was their first and most consistent album as it held a far greater ratio of inspired heavy rock centerpieces whose base tracks were all performed live and caught within the confines of the Dierks Studios in Stommeln...with audio guru Dieter Dierks producing, no less.

Five tracks comprise the album, and the Tiger bunch are nothing less than on the prowl for the bulk of it. Kicking off with “Tiger Rock” as roaring sound FX slyly open up the proceedings when Schmidt’s abrasive, near-antiseptic riffing intro cuts in to signal the band to break into a full-tilt, hardened boogie approximating the same pace and strength of Neil Young’s “Sedan Delivery” (Which is to say it’s not the usual ‘feel good at a mid pace tempo while we amp up slow and dumb down the blues like Humble fucking Pie and make you feel alllllll right!-in-the-process’ boogie nonsense but a far more streamlined and simple approach minus any fussy blues allegiance...Although THAT comes into play full force when the last track of the album derails an otherwise superb album with an obligatory and far too long blues exposition.) Tiger B. Smith just pummel it out so moronically forceful and insistently, it’s beyond mere standard blues-boogie -- its savageness is far more bloodying a stomp-fest: mirrored by Schmidt’s repeated breakdown chorus of “Won’t do it!/ Won’t do it! / Won’t do it! / I will not do it! / I will not do it! / Just leave me alone!” and the abundance of double-time drum rolls which to the overall sense of abandon both fretfully defiant and willfully absurd at the same time.

The plodding, near-“Iron Man” sensibility of the rhythm guitar of “These Days” juxtaposes itself against a stoic drum pattern clipped with Dierks’ industrial effects which translates them into a sound at once deceptively hollow though thundering with hugeness and overall bass throttling from Klaus Meinhardt. Several times it collects into small, pounded-out mini-thrashes on the beat only to explode back into the even slower paced trudge ‘theme.’ A middle section picks up speed only to fall back with the added appearance of organ tones. Again and again the brief thrash sessions return as much to annoy as to excite and serve to break up the track’s otherwise super-drag quality as well as adding a sense of perfectly-timed stupidity.

The next two tracks comprise nearly half of the album with a collective running time of about sixteen minutes and it’s Tiger B. Smith at their furiously and witless best, propelled by a voluminous fuzz bass line as they rock out with furious insistence. “Everything I Need” is six-and-a-half minutes of rant’n’roll with that reoccurring over-amplified bass throbs pulsating yet holding their ground during the whirlwind of Traut’s near-constant drum fills and Schmidt’s slashing rhythm guitar as he roars out his lyrics of need: “I’m searchin’ for all the things I need! / To satisfy my human greed! / I got a lot! / But not enough! / Cuz baby all I need is your sweet love!” The last word of each line is extended painfully as though barely keeping the imminent cracking of his voice in check. “Everything I Need” keeps returning to the same moronically repeated, midget riff cycle with only the occasional gearshift change in the form of outright instrumental breakdown to interrupt it. But it continually returns to swell back to top speed with that unbending bass line just because it feels right in the simplest manner possible. “To Hell” opens with a prominent wah-wah guitar lead/rhythm anchored by a one-fingered fuzz-bass throttling against a pounding drum pattern akin to like Joy Division attempting a blaxploitation version of “Dead Souls” as a three-piece. It would be a total late night, car cruising instrumental if not for the overdubbed spoken proclamation that is all but rendered incoherent via Dierks’ echoed treatment that fans the words out into a quick, slapback rippling effect. But it's an odyssey nevertheless -- continuing as Meinhardt’s lumbering bass lines and Traut’s drum patterns keep the background taut for Holger Schmidt as he blasts off with further wah-wah extrapolations, whammy bar vibrato and just generally letting loose with a continuing series of punk freak outs. At one point it drops off to near-silence but for over-amplified bass flatulence notes and now-thinned out drums, but the Tiger guys become uncaged once more as they start to fall behind a riff Schmidt has just hung some wah-wah upon on, and they’re already off at top speed. The bass latticework increases, as does Traut the Kraut’s doubling up on the double bass drums until it sounds once more like an instrumental Joy Division track, only this time at the speed of the 90 degree incline of “Insight.” It soon blows apart with repeated tom-tom rolls although it doesn’t mean anything to Schmidt, who continues on and trails beyond his two comrades into a slowly crumbling silence.

If only “Tiger Rock” ended here, but no: it’s with an extended electric blues (entitled imaginatively as “Tiger Blues” and complete with mouth harp a-wailing) I mentioned earlier and it’s totally out of place with the rest of the record’s exhaustive excursions into dum-dum repetition. Its only saving grace is when a final, unaccompanied tiger roar FX gets thrown in to end it all. But although both of Tiger B. Smith’s two albums fall short of being perfect, their highlights are insanely rockin’, totally liberated of self-consciousness and just plain hard to ignore.