ou’ve probably met or seen a band with lots of ideas. Ideas that are grinned about during band rehearsals and sound checks. Ideas that you and your friends think are very clever and witty. Ideas that really don’t translate well outside of your semi-circle of sycophants. You may even be a member of a band like this
There is a grey line separating having too many ideas and having bad ideas. The self-titled debut by Tigerella dangerously keeps one foot on each side of the line. The band is fronted by the accent-less vocals of Yvonne Ng, who could pass as the equivalent of a nerdier, Japanese Juliana Hatfield, but the real leader of the band is guitarist and co-vocalist Bryan Yoshida who writes the majority of the lyrics. Imagine your geeky, uber-computer-literate math-wiz Asian roommate writing quirky indie-pop lyrics and you’ve successfully pigeonholed Tigerella’s sound: upbeat power-pop with some experimental math-rock flourishes and awkward (yet slightly endearing in a cute, giggly way) lyrics.
You’ve probably never sat in science class staring at the makeshift tide-pool and thought “Hey, I should write a song about this,” but Tigerella did. It’s that sort of obscure-nerd-embracing subject matter that makes Tigerella stand out from the usual crop of power-pop indie bands. As you can imagine, these ideas, like patriot missiles, are hit and miss. “Caleb”, a six minute sci-fi tale about cast-off robots who live in the sewer, is just strange, oblique and emotionless. “The Curse of the Matador” is similarly sloppy, clocking in at an overly hefty seven-and-a-half minutes, but contains one of Yvonne’s better melodies. More successful is the “Cemetry Gates”-ish “”Jack London,” which has the protagonist spitting on the author’s grave at the same time he/she is being paid to polish it.
The subject of math is a common thread throughout the record, reinforcing the essential nerdom. The theme reaches an absurd climax on “Calculus of Love”, an embarrassing, unlistenable stab at combining a healthy desire for math with relational love (something which, if my knowledge of teen-dramas is correct, is impossible.) If anything, this song will develop into a sort of sarcastic, self-depreciating encore pleaser (see “Creep”).
But that’s merely a symptom of the problem: the band packs too many ideas into an already overly long fifty-five minutes of music. The wise move would have been to work out their “creativeness” with a few EPs before issuing a full-length. The band has potential to break from simply being branded as a curious, train-wreck oddity. When Yvonne takes over songwriting duties as she does on the foreplay-regretting “Junior”, it is obvious that the band can do more than cloying nerd-rock. As it stands, Tigerella’s debut is a textbook example of a band rushing into the recording of a full-length.
Reviewed by: Gentry Boeckel
Reviewed on: 2004-07-19