Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It seems that the fun and games of a playboy meet their demise sooner or later and for the Miniature Tigers or the characters that inhabit the songs of the Phoenix band, the sport has either stopped being fun or it's stopped working. All it really means is that things have changed from the once very milk and honey world of lady limbs and pretty faces, breasts and long hair flowing freely to a place that's become vapid or lonesome-like. Or, another reason could be the meeting of that ONE that rescues the man from himself, from the mission to bed or the mission to sow those oats that always get so talked about as an excuse for the prowess of promiscuity. Given enough leash, every man has the compulsion to stray and ramble all over the place, shacking up and catching fleas in any number of ways. Charlie Brand and Rick Schaier, the main components of the Miniature Tigers, have made an album (_Tell It To The Volcano_) that portrays this very cosmic shift in values and what one or more men might find most important - the one woman or the hunt for the herd of women that just stands there as sitting ducks when the charm comes out at night. (There's also a song on the record - "Dino Damage" - that appears to deal with the confusing scenario that pops up when you have to make a painful decision to either keep that crocodile that you've raised since it was a baby or let it out into the sewer system because it's just gotten too big and dangerous, but that's just a stray bullet. Everything else that's being discussed here has to do with reckless behavior - or regrettably, formerly reckless behavior toward the Achilles heel of pretty, pretty girls.) There was a time in Los Angeles, not all that many years ago, when a whole group of tremendous power-pop bands were revisiting the ideas and style of The Cars. Ric Ocasek was producing Weezer albums and the city was ripe with all kinds of bands hung up on trying to grow into a person who could support a relationship or find and intelligent and melodic way to hash out the many small ways that led to its demise. There was Phantom Planet (Darren Robinson of that band played lead guitar with the Miniature Tigers here and throughout their spring tour), Kara's Flowers, Nerf Herder, Ozma, Filmore, Bank of Brian and more, just to name a few, and they chugged around with those power chords and an idolization of a Weezer that had just released an album like _Pinkerton_ and was not writing the songs that it has since. The Miniature Tigers are more of a hybrid of the best of that movement, an occasional vaudevillian tone, the soft harmonies of the late Impossibles/Slow Reader and the touching, but brutally honest emotional baggage and concerns of Ben Gibbard doing either Death Cab or All-Time Quarterback. Brand and Schaier slide their voices together to make a conglomeration that sounds like a crystal clear stream with no hurry in it. They sing about being dogs, hopping from one girl to the next, disgusted with themselves for doing it, and looking to atone for it all by finding the pot of gold at the end of the last call rainbow. Theirs is a very common bit of boy-girl experimentation, played out since the beginning of attraction and what makes the album worth a damn is that these are not 11 songs that follow similar footprints as all the other boys with guitars and hearts with hard ons. When a guy gets to that point, where not all of the pretty girls are so great anymore, when there begins to emerge a feeling of emptiness that the choices of the world are lacking, it gets most interesting and it's where we're taken here, to that breaking point.