:: Article

Fire Up Those Lava Lamps

By John Madera.


Miniature Tigers, Tell It to the Volcano, Modern Art 2009

Hearing the palm-muted guitar chugging along on Miniature TigersTell It to the Volcano’s first track, I thought Stevie Nicks would burst out singing “Just like the white-winged dove, sings a song, sounds like she’s singing: whoo, whoo, whoo.” Instead, we hear Charlie Brand singing, “This is not a test, or an S.O.S. / I’m no longer on a quest to get girls undressed / I searched through their hearts and their treasure I’ve found / I’m so lucky that this one lets dogs hang around.” Then the band kicks in with the buoyancy of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and after the singer declares his love for his ‘Cannibal Queen,’ Darren Robinson squeezes a guitar solo like so many sour tangerines.


On their first-full length, the Miniature Tigers pay homage to their heroes in what unfortunately sounds like souped-up demos. Tell It to the Volcano itself is like a lost sketch from The Kinks. I can almost hear Ray Davies’ sardonic whine all over this tune. On ‘Hot Venom,’ some kind of cartoonish calliope, or something from an old Atari game like Breakout, rings throughout. A Casio-keyboard patch provides the clave beat on ‘Tchaikovsky & Solitude.’ On ‘The Wolf,’ the Miniature Tigers’ lips are flaming to the beat of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You.’ The Beatles-esque ‘Giraffe’ breaks apart into grunge madness and static. And their homage to ‘Annie Oakley’ has the requisite hand-claps to lift up another average pop track. ‘Haunted Pyramid,’ perhaps the album’s strongest song, breaks form to give us some creepiness compliments of a plodding bass drum, mournful clarinet, and some barber-shop crooning. But with ‘Last Night’s Fake Blood,’ once again, as the song itself says, there is nothing new to report.

The songs on Tell It to the Volcano zip along like those pastel-colored dots that you tore off of strips of paper at the amusement park. This Phoenix, Arizona band rubs shoulders with nerd rockers like They Might Be Giants, Ben Folds Five, Weezer. The Crash Test Dummies even. Remember them? And I wonder, after an initial listen, whether, like those novelty rockers, we’ll remember Miniature Tigers.


John Madera lives in New York City. His work has appeared in 3:AM Magazine, elimae, Bookslut, The Quarterly Conversation, New Pages, and forthcoming in The Diagram. You may find him at hitherandthithering waters, editing The Chapbook Review, and singing and playing guitar in Mother Flux.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009.