Tigertailz - Thrill Pistol (+ U.S. Wazbones '92)

'Thrill Pistol', the sixth studio album from Welsh glam-metallers Tigertailz, is a varied and diverse piece of work, with many a hidden depth that only repeated listens will unearth.

This, in itself, is not a claim you would necessarily associate with the purveyors of such bubblegum-pop gems as 'Love Bomb Baby', 'Noise Level Critical', and 'Sugar Fever', but a closer look at their now considerable back-catalogue will demonstrate that there is more to this band than a slightly dodgy moniker, an OTT image, and a pile of cheesy singles. The very fact that their 'Heaven' single, from 1990's 'Bezerk', was backed with cover versions of classic Megadeth and Metallica tracks hints at some unexpected influences going on behind the scenes. Indeed, further evidence of this came to the fore on the subsequent, much heavier than anticipated 'Wazbones' CD in 1995. Lyrically too, they haven't always been about 'Sick Sex' and 'Love Overload'! They're certainly no Manic Street Preachers (a fact that we should all be thankful for these days!), but previous heavyweight subject matters have included the perils of modern life ('Dirty Needles'), an attack on our brainless, media-dominated society ('T.V.O.D.') and a rousing anthem to those of us who feel crushed by the pressure to conform ('Get Real').

The truth, therefore, is that 'Thrill Pistol' is the continuation of a rich and varied theme that the band has developed over the last two decades. That said, anyone expecting anything sounding too much like last year's 'Bezerk 2.0' are in for a mild shock. 'Thrill Pistol' is to 'Bezerk 2.0' what 'Wazbones' was to the original 'Bezerk', only more so in every conceivable way!

The now trademark disconnected intro. (see 'Sick Sex' and 'Bezerk') lulls you into a false sense of calm - this time with a gentle tribal drumbeat, vaguely reminiscent of last year's 'Falling Down'. But before you decide to sit this one out, 'Brain the Sucker' grabs you by the balls and rips them both clean off! With a politically charged rant about today's War on Terror, and the regimes that spawned it, Tigertailz pummel your senses with one of their heaviest songs to-date. Kim Hooker's vocals are fiercer than ever before, and there's even a hint of old-school punk-rock in his deliver-r-r-y!

'Long Live the New Flesh' continues along similar lines, with jungle drums paving the way for a deep, growling vocal from Kim, and a heavy as hell bass line from Pepsi Tate. You can't help but feel that new drummer Matt Blakout has brought his own distinctive style to the band's sound - a style that is a perfect fit with where the band is right now.

'Twisted' follows in a similar 'Wazbones'-heavy vein, before title track 'Thrill Pistol' slaps you on the arse with a wet towel and leaves you wondering what the hell just happened! This is a song like no other that Tigertailz have recorded before, and if it isn't released as a single, then somebody deserves to find themselves down the Job Centre - pronto! Try to imagine it; female backing vocals, from the gorgeous sounding Suzie Chunk, honky-tonk piano that would easily suit the Quireboys at their most raucous, and the Tigertailz patented catchy-as-hell chorus! This has hit-single written all over it! Not in the same throw-away style that saw 'Love Bomb Baby' or 'Noise Level Critical' bothering the charts - with more of a party feel to it, this song is destined to be an awesome addition to the live-set.

Very few can do the power-ballad thing better than Tigertailz, and they perfected the style with last year's 'I Believe'. 'Milez Away' does an admirable job in attempting to match this - all swirling keyboards and HUGE backing vocals; reminiscent of Motley Crue's 'Home Sweet Home' - but unless you're Tesla, the 'I Believe' standard of balladic-genius can rarely be repeated.

By this stage, anyone waiting for sleazy tales of sex, booze and tattoos might be thinking of calling it a day. Fear not though; 'Natural Born Animal' finds us in much more familiar territory! If there were a musical equivalent to the Literary Review Bad Sex Award, Tigertailz would have it in the bag this year! This debauched account of Kim Hooker's encounter with the sexual-goddess of his dreams (please let it be the woman adorning the album's cover - all skimpy leather and red platformed stilettos!) sounds like it came so easily, and with a bass/harmony-heavy chorus, there's no mistaking the Kiss influence coming through loud and clear. In fact, I swear it was Gene Simmons' tongue I felt flickering the back of my neck as Kim described the bedroom scene!

'Only You' is another pop-rock masterpiece. Matt Blakout's driving rhythm takes the lead here, and guides us through a semi-balladic affair, accompanied by Jay Pepper's soaring guitar - Kim Hooker once again demonstrating why he's fronting this band. Is it just me, or can everyone in Wales sing the rest of us into tone-deaf lunacy?

Sub-two-minute acoustic workouts were quite popular back in the 80s; L.A. Guns' 'Cry No More', Van Halen's 'Spanish Fly' and Y&T's 'I'll Cry For You' being just three examples of this genre. Jay Pepper may be no Eddie Van Halen, but he silenced his critics long-ago, and whilst last year's 'Bezerk 2.0' cemented his return to the band after an absence from the 'Wazbones' record, it is on 'Tongwynlais Fly' that he really shows his diversity, having shredded our ears throughout much of the record so far. Anyone familiar with 'Ballerina', from 1987's 'Young & Crazy' will know exactly what I'm talking about! Almost seamlessly, we then find ourselves in the midst of 'Hanging by the Heelz'; another heavy as lead chant, not dissimilar to their earlier 'I Can Fight Dirty Too', only this time taking another pop at the cynical marketing-savvy/celebrity-fixated media that seems so hard to escape these days!

Finally, 'Serpent Queen' is possibly the most surprising track on the album. Somewhat reminiscent of Ozzy Osborne in places, it is almost experimental, and quite unlike anything Tigertailz have recorded to-date. Whether this hints at any future direction the band might be heading in remains to be seen, of course.

Also included with this release is the only official outing of the full-length original Wazbones album - the Tigertailz album that almost never was! Following the band's split from Music for Nations; they were picked up by the 'Amuse' label in America. This deal resulted in the recordings that were intended to become the third Tigertailz album. Fate had other ideas in mind though, and prior to its release, the album was shelved and the band 'let go'. Almost undeterred, Tigertailz soldiered on and with Cy Danaher replacing Jay Pepper on guitars, they re-wrote and re-recorded much of the album for its eventual release in 1995. As well as Jay Pepper, casualties of this era included the songs 'Wazbonez' (although this became the vastly superior 'Let Your Flesh Instruct Your Mind'), 'I Believe', 'One Beat Of Your Heart', 'Show Me' and 'The Final Solution'. Of these, some appeared on the Japanese release (under that 'Wazbones' band name, rather than 'Tigertailz'), whilst others were eventually re-recorded for the 'Bezerk 2.0' album. The dedicated fan, therefore, will already own every track featured on the bonus CD, in one form or another. The question then becomes, what does the bonus CD offer? Is it better than the 'Wazbones' album that finally saw the light of day in 1995? Does it detract from, or devalue last year's 'Bezerk 2.0' CD that featured several similar tracks? Or is it merely the missing point of reference from this colourful band's chequered history?

Having heard the re-recorded album some twelve years earlier, it's impossible to be entirely objective on any of these points. Compared to the more widely available version from 1995, it has an almost unfinished feel to it. This is despite the usual production perfection that you would expect from Tigertailz. Again, compare it to 'Bezerk 2.0' and it sounds lacklustre - dated even. In truth, therefore, it merely demonstrates what could have been, and how the band has grown in the last decade, despite their absence. The song-writing is there, in abundance, and if they had been released at the time, the likes of 'One Beat of Your Heart' and 'The Final Solution' could have taken the band to the next level with ease (were it not for the Grunge explosion). Conversely, the improvements made to the original recordings, particularly on 'I Believe', are what really make 'Bezerk 2.0' the album that it is.

In conclusion, therefore, 'U.S. Wazbonez '92' is an essential piece of Tigertailz history: to the die-hard fan, it offers the chance to complete the back-catalogue; whilst to the casual or newer fan it demonstrates that there is a depth of material available that will reward further enquiry. What's more, IT'S FREE!!!

It would be stretching the imagination a touch to say that 'Bezerk 2.0' set the world alight, and re-established Tigertailz as the forerunners of the British rock scene. A combination of piss-poor (read zero!) label backing, and only a handful of live dates to promote the album, meant that the chances of this were slim. This is despite the fact that it is arguably the highpoint of the band's career to-date - out-classing even the original 'Bezerk' album from their 1990 heyday.

What 'Bezerk 2.0' did establish, though, was that there is still a market for Tigertailz, and, buoyed by the reissue of the remastered 'Bezerk' and 'Banzai!' CDs on the Sanctuary label, Tigertailz have turned around the quickest follow-up in the history of modern rock. Released by Sanctuary - a union that has seen the Tigertailz name on the front page of Kerrang! for the first time in over a decade, 'Thrill Pistol' is an all guns blazing assault on the senses that will appeal as much to the younger metal-heads of today as it will the die-hard glamsters from back in the day.

It's early days yet, and there have been one or two strong contenders recently, but I'm gonna stick my neck out and say "Album of the Year". Well done fellas!

9/10

by Danzai!

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