Tiger Army – ‘Retrofuture’

By Tom Walsh

Nick 13 paints a picture of America we all like to imagine. An expansive country of top-down Cadillacs, motels with flashing neon signs, and promises of ‘HBO TV’. Milkshakes in late-night diners, steak dinners, and women in polka dot dresses and Bettie Page hair.

It seems a simpler place – free from the consuming world of social media, fake news, viral marketing and fascistic governments. It’s a fixation that courses through Nick 13’s body of work, from the psychobilly, punk riffs of Tiger Army, to the country western sounds of his solo records. He sees the world through the filter of a bygone era where Hank Williams was in the charts and Mickey Mantle was slugging them out of Yankee Stadium.

That’s why it seems entirely apt that Tiger Army return with an album entitled ‘Retrofuture’. 13 has always insisted that “Tiger Army never dies”, but the psychobilly favourites had certainly been in hibernation until they were reawakened in 2016 with their first record in nine years, ‘V•••–’.

While ‘V•••–’ indulged Tiger Army’s punk sensibility, ‘Retrofuture’ delves into 13’s love affair with country music and classic rock and roll to create a delicately eclectic record. The opening track ‘Prelude Tercio De Muerte’, an instrumental introduction, borrows themes from Mexican mariachi and the kind of classic surfer tracks you’d expect to find in mid-90s Quentin Tarantino films.

However, they stride into their rhythm with the classic rockabilly-inspired ‘Beyond The Veil’ which is every inch the classic Tiger Army sound we are so accustomed. The slapping upright bass compliments the rolling drum beats while the vibrato of guitar underscores 13’s signature melodic, howling vocals.

The Tiger Army front man has an incredible knack of shifting his singing style from the ultra-macho screams demonstrated in the thrashing ‘Eyes Of The Night’ to dulcet, quivering tones akin to a 1950s crooner in the charming ballad ‘Valentina’. The latter is a delightful love song which instantly puts you in the smoke-filled champagne clubs of Sunset Boulevard of days gone by.

Among the neon signs and long drives across the Nevada deserts, 13 does seemingly pull his head above the parapet during ‘Devil That You Don’t Know’. While he is steadfast in his rule of not mixing music and politics, there are hints in this grooving, stomping anthem of political commentary, as he utters “they say the devil you know is better than the one you don’t know”, subtle references to America’s flawed decision of choosing Donald Trump over Hilary Clinton.

It is only a momentary glance before Tiger Army are back into tales of lost loves in the swaying ‘Black Neon’. ‘Retrofuture’ is bookended with the instrumental ‘Night Flower’ which puts us in the hillbilly bars on a dusty road in Texas while ‘Shadowlight’ place us back on the sunlit streets of Los Angeles.

The country Nick 13 and Tiger Army portray is the one we want to live in. And with ‘Retrofuture’, for 45 minutes, you can take yourself there and live that slice of Americana we keep being told has been burned to the ground. Make America Retro Again.

TOM WALSH

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