For Phoenix’s Miniature Tigers, Fortress is more than a sophomore record. It’s an opportunity to prove that the high acclaim received by the band’s 2008 Tell It to the Volcano was no accident.
Fortress finds the quartet once again sifting joyously through the bargain bin of influences. All sorts of collisions occur between the Miniature Tigers and the musicians they pay happy homage to and most of those collisions work to an extent, but there comes a point and time when one starts to want to hear these Tigers roar a little on their own.
The Miniature Tigers have the Beatles-inspired pop bounce down, that’s for sure, and they draw on that throughout Fortress. Whether it’s the animated trot found on “Rock ‘N Roll Mountain Troll,” complete with sing-songy melody and chutes-and-ladders keyboarding, or the delicate and slightly “off” tones of “Tropical Birds,” the Fab Four clearly play a role in terms of influence.
More modern influences are also spread throughout this Fortress. Pitchforkheads will find gobs of Animal Collective, Morning Benders, Panda Bear, and other indie “it” bands splattered colourfully all over the place.
When the Miniature Tigers shine is when they let honesty creak through the floorboards, like on the beautifully understated “Dark Tower.” Vocalist Charlie Brand manages tremendous intimacy, joined almost endearingly by gauzy acoustic guitar.
“Bullfighter Jacket” is interesting in a Flaming Lips sort of fashion, charging energetically through several different movements with Brand’s insistent vocals front and centre. He carries the strange lyrics through with an unabashed sense of showmanship.
Then there’s “Japanese Woman Living in My Closet.” The aptly-named track has a garage rock groove that proves immensely satisfying. It’s not hard to imagine the Miniature Tigers pulling this clanger together in between spare tires and cobwebs, a thin line of light streaming in from an outside street light. It’s the best two minutes on the record.
“Lolita,” on the other hand, feels less than genuine. Despite the gloriously perverse lyrics, the song never really lets its freak flag fly like it should. The Tigers seem content to toy with influences again. The fact that it sounds quite like the vocal melody of a Panda Bear song is a problem.
There are some truly captivating moments to be found on Fortress, that’s for sure, and cuts like “Japanese Woman Living in My Closet” and “Dark Tower” show what this band can do under the right circumstances. But it still sounds like these Miniature Tigers are finding their own voices and that keeps this record from being something really distinctive.Powered by Sidelines