Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Tiger B. Smith—
We're The Tiger Bunch


Released 1975 on Janus
The Seth Man, June 2001ce
Were these guys for real?

Or maybe I should rephrase that as “fur real” as Tiger B. Smith’s second album sees them on the cover in an outtake shot from their first album, “Tiger Rock” dressed to the nines (OK, that’s too charitable: how about ‘to the four and a halves’?) in a display of not only tiger, but leopard and lion skins as well. And make up, to boot. And speaking of boots, the band name is stitched into lead singer/guitarist Holger Schmidt’s knee-highs as well. They only released two albums and this, their second offering, was by no means a uniformly great album as four tracks miss the target with ill-advised forays into fake existential balladry, feeble funk-offs or prog fuck-offs. They probably thought it was a way to get in some sort of ‘serious’ angle, but these tracks (“Old Man,” “Anna Sheffield” and the huge two tracks that gobble side two almost completely into clunkersville, “Help For A Blind Man” and “Disappointed Love”) make it on no level except as a crash course on how to ruin a perfectly good album of STOOPID NOISE with the sort of irritating dross that comprised innumerable Strawbs albums in the mid-to-late seventies.

So before you resign “We’re The Tiger Bunch” to the furthest reaches of the nearest radioactive wasteland, keep in mind that the remaining five tracks’ blow the rest of the album’s foolish flotsam straight away to nether-nether land in a strange marriage of Gary Glitter’s Glitter Band grappling with the Sweet, Slade and even (gulp) The MC5, discharging rock action left right and centre as furious as their ridic-clue-less jungle garb as they shove a tiger in both their tank and yours. Here’s how:

“She’s All-Right” begins side one with (appropriately enough) pre-recorded tiger roars. Or maybe they’re lions, as it’s clear they weren’t so particular with zoological correctness as their mismatched gear on the front cover attests. But when far more savage and simple guitars start churning out an unbelievably raucous noise, all snorts of sarcasm are promptly eradicated. It’s made even more powerful through the surprising Peter Hauke production (surprising only because his work on Nektar LPs never sounded this unmuddy and in your face) that captures the blisteringly loud rhythm guitar and its counterpart slide vignette-ing into set-on-stun guitar. And it’s immediately apparent that Holger Schmidt’s vocals are growled in what was probably meant to be in a ‘tiger’ sort of manner, which is not only ballsy and preposterous but funny as he manages to obscure most of the lyrics except for the absurd line, “She’s a woman/She’s all right now!” over and over, shored up by backing female session vox. Oh, they’ve already gone TOO FAR on the first track as they shoot at the moon with glam guitars too simplistic for anything else but dum dum Rock of the highest calibre. I believe it was Jean Cocteau who said “The artist must go too far in order for everyone else to go far enough” and if I’m miscrediting or paraphrasing, excuse me for Tiger B. Smith are back one crap song later and blasting out “Rock My Soul.” It has all the aural properties of being performed live on a soundstage with tons of reverb as the trio pump out Rock with a capital “R” over pat lyrics that get growled out insanely:

“Love you madly
All night long
Freak me out, girl
Rock mah soul, gurl
Every way”

“You’re mah sugar
You get me high
Let’s get on our dragon and fly...
FLY!!!”

The double-tracked guitar solo is great, especially when it cuts out and you immediately notice how sleek and energetic the production is. I’d argue you to down to the ground that it was wasted on Tiger B. Smith, because it’s only but one part of what makes this album such a loser’s achievement against the odds (Another is their publishing company name: ‘Heavy Music, BMI.’) “Can’t You Remember” is a quick bounce over the crappy’n’sappy “Anna Sheffield” and it is every inch “Virginia Plain”’s rock chick younger sister stripped of camp, class and charm, and wouldn’t you know it: Schmidt’s already crooning like Bryan Ferry with a sore throat backing Slade. You wish it were misspelled on purpose for working class street cred, but no dice, Noddy. Schmidt’s too busy roughly tearing outta his throat the classic throwaway line “You treat me so bad/I can hardly write my name” that is such a non-plussing, dummy line, it’s so first draft, it rocks. But not nearly as much so as when he bawls:

“All day long
All night long
I love you so hard
There was blood all over my bed!!”

That is what I call totally uncalled for, disgusting, vulgar...AND outright hilarious, simultaneously. And when they throw in a tortured, strangulated beat-off supreme of a guitar solo, you begin to believe that they could probably even take the slow-burning eleganza of Roxy’s “Both Ends Burning” and reduce it to the level of a sonic Soho knee trembler. Tiger B. Smith, man: they really do as much a number on side two as they did those bed sheets. They then go for broke with the last two songs of the album, “Inside My Head” and “We’re The Tiger Bunch.” “Inside My Head” is like an amphetamine “Blockbuster” by The Sweet that gets sky-jacked mid-flight by The Osmonds “Crazy Horses.” It really is. Everything’s in attendance: the consistent, big-booted stomp drums of Karl Heinz Traut over Schmidt’s guitar, Klaus Meinhardt’s loping bass and a clumsy, corkscrewing synthesizer accent that bursts in. After every sung line of “See that tiger!/Crazy tiger!” there’s one of those “Weeoouuuee!” screech-outs, Hahahahahahaha. And the guitar’s reverb treatment becomes very apparent with all the middle break stop and starts, when it carries on into an aural bas-relief several feet wide. Oh, it’s crazy all right when “Weeooooouuuee!”s are applied over and over again by song’s end. To totally cap it off in fine style, they break into the title track, “We’re The Tiger Bunch.” No prizes for guessing it’s a total ‘we’re the top o’ the heap’ chest beater, but wait a minute, what’s this? It sounds nothing less than The MC5’s “Looking At You” off “Back In The USA” as Holger’s grizzle/growl informs us, the listener that “There’s no group like us around!” amongst The Smiths’ list of achievements. And I believe them, I truly do. Because when a Rachmusikpuppettgruppen like this goes THIS far, it’s truly distinctive. And ever better, it rocks up the kind of storm that had, by and large, cooled off for the moment by 1975.

Yes, they were for real.
Now repeat after me: “Weeeeeeooooooooooouuuee!”