Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Within the tight confines of the song "Gold Skull," there is a spiraling catastrophe just eating up the minutes, eating up a man. It's as if the sky's closing in on our hero, the protagonist of Miniature Tigers' quick-hitting shot at understanding the ways that our ever-moving bodies and minds get rolled these days. Charlie Brand, the group's lead singer, sings about just staying in and chilling on this particular evening in question - just turning his cell phone off and decompressing. It sounds as if he's swimming in the vast sea of overload, spinning like a silly silo and just wanting to be somewhere where the ringing and the craziness are not so present - knowing well that he's still not going to be able to turn it all off. There is always the residue of those rings and that craziness that linger like freeloaders. Brand sings about watching his mind go down in the smoke, seeing it hit the heat and vanishing immediately, eaten up by the curling, orange flames. It feels in the song, as if we're in the middle of a heat wave, right in the stink eye of summer, when the running around is contagious, when the clothing is partially optional and spirits are high, but frazzled. It's a man, returning to an icy place that's as close to a home as he has, and just saying, "I'm beat. I'm done. Give me some time. Give me a breather." But one of the great things about Brand and Miniature Tigers, is that they are still nothing but young men and they are going to bounce back from being wiped out very, very quickly. They rebound as if their skin, their bones, their eyes and hearts were made of trampoline material, springing back to its exact tension and perkiness - in this case - two minutes and thirty some seconds later. "Bullfighter Jacket," one of the finest of many fine songs on the group's newest full-length, "Fortress," begins with a ya-ya-ya-ya-Flaming Lips-like introduction before we hear Brand enter with a proclamation that has him launching himself from the indentations on the couch or the bed in "Gold Skull," throwing on a jacket and heading out into the all-night lights to socialize - taking back what he said about not wanting to be around anybody. Suddenly, the tempo's spruced back up and we're on the prowl with him again, hearing him sing, "There's nothing for me here at home/Everything I need's with you out east/I can't wait any longer/No one seems to understand/How I long to be in the palm of your hand…/I know you're half-crazy but I don't care." He's forgotten that he's mental and is now out chasing that girl that's only going to make him more so. Bless such a situation. Miniature Tigers are one of the best examples America has of a young band working a something new, something old and something borrowed mentality with its songwriting. With each album they make more bold steps forward, with Brand, Rick Alvin Schaier, Algernon Quashie and Alex Gerber enhancing their Wilsons-Love-Jardine four-part harmonies and sharpening their attack on the pop song structure, showing us that they get it. They understand it all and what they're producing are songs that are instant loves.