Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tiger Lillies: Seven Deadly Sins

Dark Cabaret darlings Tiger Lillies are back with a deliciously deviant new album, which chronicles man's (inevitable?) fall from grace. Seven Deadly Sins delivers the same unique brand of carnival side show camp peppered with maniacal brutality their fans have grown to love across the span of their impressive discography. The lyrics are, as always, bloody, gutty, gory, and brutally honest.

In the begging, there was "Adam and Steve." This song represents the Lillies' personal take on the concept of original sin. True to Tiger Lillies form, it is not the Bible story most of us are familiar with.

The next track on the album is called "Gluttony" and its message is simple: "he wants to be fulfilled." This song details the plight of the emotional eater, and given the plumpness of vocalist Martyn Jacques' silhouette, I wonder if it is perhaps more autobiographical in nature than some of the others. This is the first song on the album which caused me to reflect on what would come to be a recurring theme: the lengths to which the average person will go to fill a perceived void inside oneself. The rambling belch is a thoughtful touch, but could make for unpleasant background music once this album has become a well-loved volume in one's mp3 collection.

"Pride" is an absolutely haunting track, employing the use of a musical saw, played by Adrian Stout. To get a similar sound, other artists have employed the use of an electronic device invented in 1919 called a Theramin. The Tiger Lillies never disappoint. They bring the real thing, and it helps to create a gauzy, ethereal atmosphere like the one I can imagine being present on The Day of Final Judgement. Jacques' voice is beautifully rough, like a beyond-her-prime diva after too much whiskey and cigarettes. In a ghostly voice, he warns: "pride will eat your love."

"You wanna fuck the world..." Surely, we have all harboured this fiendish desire at one time or another. When I hear the song "Lust" I picture a hideous troll of a woman taking her clothes off for me at a 25 cent peep show. Sadly, the off putting gleam in her eye is too familiar to ignore. Jacques' voice is shrill as the vulgarities spill from his mouth, and even Satan himself gets in on the slimy action, licking his lips in filthy anticipation of our sins.

The saw again adds its melancholy trill in the sad, sober "Life is Mean." This song encapsulates the hopelessness of being human. In spite of our conquests in pursuit of happiness, and the sins we commit along the way, there is always that heart wrenching moment in which we realize the futility of our existence. We all seem driven to fill an impossible void. "So the cycle spins, no one ever wins." There is something bone-chilling about this song, as it speaks to anyone who thought their life would somehow be more meaningful than it has revealed itself to be.

In complete contrast to the preceding track, "Envy" is light an airy; it begins with a ukulele and a kazoo. Everything about this song is blatantly reflective of current societal attitudes regarding what we feel is owed each of us as a matter of course. A brooding sense of self-importance lives in us, unleashing a gamut of emotions ranging from mere desire to flat-out, bloody murder-plotting envy. Envy is a natural relative of gluttony, as it relates to a culturally-nurtured need to consume all that we can in order to fill any emptiness we perceive in our lives. "A phantom of your fantasy." Our culture is encouraged to envy through the media, the entertainment industry, the food service industry, drug pushers, pimps... "Oh well!" Jacques chimes happily. Fucking brilliant.

Listening to "Anger" for the first time was like hearing the contents of my most dark and secret thoughts being shouted back at me through a megaphone. It is related to envy in that anger often stems from our feelings that we are not getting what we deserve. This track boasts the carnival side show sort of feel that Tiger Lillies fans have grown accustomed to; very heavy on the accordion.

In "Baby's Dead" Jacques sounds like a deranged Muppet singing atop a broken-down piano in a smoky lounge that smells of semen and broken dreams. Meanwhile, "Knock You About" could almost serve as a soothing lullaby for a fussing child, with a stern warning woven in between the threads. Like "Rock a Bye, Baby" but with a decidedly more hands-on brand of violence.

"The wife beater meets his wife, he'll beat her all her life." "Down to Hell" unearths memories of sitting in a hard, wooden pew, listening to an odious choir howling pleading prayers for our salvation. However, I don't recall such delightfully sickening detail ever being hurled from the the preacher's pulpit.

The album's final track, "Know What it Means" is the point at which the final threads of the story are laced together. Jacques' vocals seem to pass judgement on the listener. This hasn't been a collection of songs about nondescript damnation, this album has been about your damnation. We, as a society, seem to live only to sin.

The Seven Deadly Sins are in our thoughts, and they are in our words. They live in our actions, and also in our failure to act. They are alive and well inside every one of us, and they are feeding off of parts of us we aren't even aware of at this very moment.

5/5 Kitty Skulls = Pick of the litter!

Tiger Lillies are:

Martyn Jacques: vocals, accordion, piano, guitar, harmonica, ukulele and the banjolele
Adrian Huge: drums and percussion, backing vocals
Adrian Stout: double bass, musical saw, backing vocals

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