Album Reviews - Reviews

Tiger Jaws – Charmer


It would have been all too easy to write off Tigers Jaw as a forgone conclusion. In March of last year, the Scranton, PA band announced they were going on a hiatus – with three-fifths of the five piece unable to continue to be part of the band. A summer of confusion and assumptions that Tigers Jaw were done forever followed until Run For Cover Records eventually made clear to the world that when Tigers Jaw said “hiatus”, they didn’t actually mean ‘hiatus’ and that we were still going to enjoy the band’s scrappy brand of emo-punk, just now it would becoming from the dynamic duo of Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh. However, the band’s upcoming album, Charmer, would be recorded by the entirety of the former line up of the band. Make sense to you? Maybe not. It probably didn’t make much sense to the fractured band either, and, like any piece of art created with someone you’ve just had a bad break up with, it led to the creation of an album that’s lyrically somber, bitter and more than a little bit on edge.

Charmer is the end of the Tigers Jaw that we’ve known since their early indie-rock leaning brand of pop punk set them apart. In fact, throughout Charmer, it’s hard to believe that this has been created by a band that we ever referred to as pop-punk. Just a quick listen to lead single ‘Hum’ shows us a band with a perfect understanding of what it takes to make melancholy melodic. With Collins’ haunting vocals recalling a subject who resembles “a permanent scar”, the track effortlessly creates an atmosphere of loneliness and uncertainty. While so many young bands can go wrong – trying too hard to come across as earnest and genuine – Tigers Jaw succeed. Lyrics such as ‘Slow Come On”s “Why am I so cruel? Why am I so mean?” may not seem overly endearing, but they do give the band the coarse self-awareness needed to get into the minds of their listeners. The kids who’ll love Charmer the most are those coming to terms with the fact that they’re having to accept adulthood whether they like it or not – this is an album about maturing and all the demons that come with it.

If one’s looking to see the impact of the break up on the release, it’s not instantly apparent. The band are incredibly tight and the hazy, indie guitarwork blends seamlessly well with their punk aesthetic. The only noticeable schism within the record is the the distinct differences between when McIlwee and Walsh take main stage. Walsh’s lyrics are quite grounded in realism (and littered with Twin Peaks references) whilst McIlwee takes a more abstract approach. Previously, this failed to be that problematic however, this time round, the pair are just too far away from one another. This doesn’t detract from the songs themselves but it does make Charmer feel almost as divided as the people who created it.

Of course, the future of Tigers Jaw remains uncertain. Whilst Charmer is certainly a transition to something new, it’s hard to know exactly what that will be. Maybe ‘Hum’, with it’s greater focus on Collins is a sign of things to come, but it remains to be seen. What we do know is that at this time, on this record, there was a band called Tigers Jaw who put their troubles to the side for a few recording sessions and created an album to soothe the journey from childhood to adulthood. In a time that when much of the movement is looking backwards towards bands like American Football and Mineral, let’s be aware of just how great the bands that we’ve grown up with can be. Kelly Doherty