By Tiger Shadow
After releasing their debut album earlier in the year, socially-aware genre-manglers Tiger Shadow release three-track EP 'Stripe 1.' The disparate range of influences that powered 'The Rise Of The Tiger Shadow' are all still present and accounted for, but 'Stripe 1' has a more prominent electro edge, most notably in 'See You Next Tuesday' and 'Up & Down.' Tiger Shadow are still pedalling their unique brand of gloomy cool, but it's a lot more catchy than it used to be.
Their strongest asset is, as ever, the once-heard-never-forgotten, impossibly bass-voiced frontman Komla MC. Komla has a voice that can effortlessly convey emotion, but with a cool, calm and controlled tone that'll have you hanging on his every word. His vocal contributions on 'I Knew You'd Be Alright' are nothing short of mesmerising.
EP-opener 'Up & Down' is the listener's first introduction to Tiger Shadow's newfound electro slant. It takes a slick, industrial-meets-mainstream-RnB beat as its starting point, cooks up a dark and dangerous atmosphere, and then twists the whole thing into awkward, juddering rhythms by means of a liberal helping of lurching electro beats. This jagged edge is wickedly catchy and, as ever, Komla's straight-talking style of delivery means that his every word resonates. 'Up & Down' is a deceptively infectious, refreshingly melodrama-free commentary on grimy modern-day life.
'See You Next Tuesday' is cut from the same cloth. A sparse song where the drums drag their desolate feet across a cavernous soundscape of subtle, barely-there synths. It's a slightly surreal, and utterly absorbing aural experience. If dark, rain-soaked, mean city streets could talk, this is what they'd sound like. But it isn't all gloom, as once again Tiger Shadow introduce some hooky electro to the mix, putting a catchy spin on this otherwise dismal song.
Lyrically, 'See You Next Tuesday' alternates between Tiger Shadow's usual intelligent social commentaries and choruses where they slip out of character and make nudge-nudge-wink-wink use of the quasi-acronym 'See You Next Tuesday.' While it's perhaps intended as a send-up of the attitudes of characters mentioned elsewhere in the lyrics, it does cheapen a song that otherwise makes intelligent nods towards feminism, gang crime and drug related issues.
Tiger Shadow are predominantly a band of toughened gloom, but there is one light, bright moment on this EP, in the form of the uplifting 'I Knew You'd Be Alright.' Komla's refreshingly unpretentious turn of phrase means that 'I Knew You'd Be Alright' talks to you like a friend, as the frontman sympathises that "things probably seem really bad," before gently insisting that "it'll be okay / it'll be alright." As already mentioned, his vocals are in a league of their own during this track. His quiet but purposeful tone, combined with his no-nonsense lyrics, will have you rapt.
The simple backing track consists mainly of shuffling drumbeats edged in glimmery chords, which perfectly compliment lyrics that acknowledge that things are rough, but promises that they will get better. The musical equivalent of a heartfelt commiseration from a friend.
Tiger Shadow are a unique outfit. Their tales of wallet theft, corporate fat cats and kids getting drawn into gangs, paint a painfully true-to-life portrait that's remarkably free of both sickly sentimentality and resignation. Grubby and bleak, but hopeful that things can only get better, Tiger Shadow are an inspiring listen.
'Stripe 1' has a more pronounced electro edge than 'The Rise Of The Tiger Shadow' and it's a move that suits them well. Now, their combination of reggae, RnB and grimy, indie-flick soundtrack, is funkier than it's ever been. If you fell for 'The Rise Of The Tiger Shadow,' then prepare to wonder why these guys aren't cult heroes, all over again.