Review Summary: Apply inconspicuously for best results.
Tigercub first blipped onto my radar in 2021 with the release of As Blue As Indigo
, an album which saw the British trio return as regional rock ‘n’ roll underdogs for good reason—their sultry, sulking melodies glinted beneath an exoskeleton of bass-heavy riffs eager to tickle the ear and resistant to the whitewash of the genre’s most commercialized modern material. Their influences were obvious—some postured they were mere Queens of the Stone Age clones, others a grimmer, grittier take on the revival attempted by Royal Blood—but whatever the case, the chemistry showcased on that record hinted towards not just a quiet mastery of that slice of guitar pie, but aspirations to transcend it; for every succinct, straightforward banger like “Blue Mist In My Head” or “As Long As You’re Next To Me,” there was an elusive, restrained brooder, lending credibility to the notion that if Tigercub could remain as dynamic as they just demonstrated, broader name recognition could pay bigger dividends.
The Perfume of Decay
, their studio return following extensive touring, arguably lives in the shadow of its immediate predecessor, but that needn’t necessarily be interpreted as a slight against it. “This is our goth, Robert Smith make-up, heavy metal record,” frontman Jamie Hall elaborated in an interview with Upset Magazine, summarizing the new project as reflective of and indebted to late night anxiety, “a claustrophobic space...where your brain is trapped in this flesh cage.” It’s nocturnal by design, his ruminations inwardly self-critical and relentlessly smothered in fuzz. Wispy vocals soulfully slither over each dingy wall of the cocoon, a tone far removed from the lowest common denominator mannerisms of the band’s post-grunge-adjacent forefathers. Grasping the hooky heart of those formulas and shedding the excess baggage, standouts like “Show Me My Maker” and “The Dark Below” feature the band flexing in their comfort zone, offering precisely the strain of radio-friendly rock that ought to be dominating the airwaves in 2023.
Save for “Swoon,” which somehow integrates Slipknot-esque chain percussion and
a lyrical reprise to Coldplay’s “Clocks” AND
actually works (how do
they do it?), most of The Perfume of Decay
’s experiments surface later on; “Until I Forget” spotlights a rare and earned instance of screamed vocals while the pair of “Shadowgraph,” and “Help Me I’m Dreaming” embody the most fantastical of compositions at the tail end of the album's sleepless stroll, the former relaying its finest fusion of restrained, ominous verses and lurching, heavy chorus licks, while the latter echoes a sedative melody into oblivion.
Slivers of disappointment come not from any obnoxious whiffs, but from (and this will not surprise a fair number of you) the dawning realization there’s less up the band’s sleeve than initially suspected. The title track and “Play My Favourite Song” indicate that Tigercub performing a groggy, muddied version of themselves isn’t the most immersive horizon they could be hunting down, while "We’re a Long Time Gone” is appreciated as a change of pace but accomplishes little of its own merit as a mid-album acoustic ditty. “You’re My Dopamine” is the most egregious example of Hall’s limited lyrical scope, but even on the tracks where the rest of the band punches above their weight, his tendency to err on the side of tight-lippedness often leaves the music’s potential for detail hanging. Consider that The Perfume of Decay
’s topical subjects—self-doubt, depression, dreams—aren’t exactly uncharted territory for the man and these re-hashes of ideas begin to feel vague and concise to a fault.
Still, despite their musical proclivities reaching peak popularity well before they ever took to the stage, The Perfume of Decay
suggests Tigercub will remain a reliable, humble source of reined-in rage for any aging rocker on the lookout for a band that has no million-dollar legacy or viral hit to fall back on. For better or worse, these scrappy lads have to keep proving they’ve got the spark on each leg of their journey. This showing may linger in familiar territory a little longer than it needs to, but there appears to be plenty of gas left in the tank for the expedition to continue.