Opinion: No-one beats The Tiger Lillies on lockdown releases

The recent shift across the world has, like a tectonic plate, prompted a tidal wave of new music releases, sometimes accompanied by innovative or painful solutions to the ban on live music. Here is why we feel The Tiger Lillies stand out in this ever growing wall of sound.

Crucifying Jesus, sex with flies, Edgar Allen Poe; no topic is off limits for the macabre cabaret trio that is The Tiger Lillies. If you haven’t heard of this band yet, imagine a combination of Tom Waits and Art The Clown.

As well as being the go to act for lovers of the sepulchral and provocative, this Brechtian cabaret outfit might just be one of the most prolific bands out there. Between their debut in 1994, with Birth, Marriages and Deaths, and the release of The Devil’s Fairground last year The Tiger Lillies have put out a total of 41 further albums. For the last 3 years they have had an average output of 2 albums a year, not to mention contributions to works by other artists.
This takes us into 2020 and the current lockdown. Whereas most bands have released the odd single over this period The Tiger Lillies have recorded and released two whole albums, entitled Covid-19 Volumes 1 & 2.

“There are a few people who have said I shouldn’t write about it but I write about the streets – and this is what is happening at this particular moment in history.”

Martyn Jacques

Filled with their usual sardonic wit and mocking depravity, the album is riddled with satirical germs like Sanitizer Survivor, Corona Was A Beer Once and a plea to the audience “Don’t Swallow Bleach!“. Having seen too many catch-phrase-satires and cringe-worthy mood lifters it is refreshing to see a band reach right down into the guts of the matter and smear excrement across them. As lead singer Martyn Jacques has said himself, “Art should be as ugly and offensive as humanity“.
Just as the band can get a crowd cheering and laughing at the idea of kicking a baby down the stairs, so too can they get a man alone in his flat giggling at the thought of coughing over old people.

On top of all 32 tracks of the Covid-19 couplet comes the first digital release of The Tiger Lillies‘ Grammy nominated tribute to author and illustrator Edward Gorey. Originally released in 2003, The Gorey End is a journey back to the twisted fairy-tale storytelling of the junk opera Shockheaded Peter, which the band worked on 5 years previous. Between scary stories to tell your children is the undisputed fan favourite, Gin; a fable on the wickedness of consumption, with an uncanny elephant impression thrown in.

Speaking of The Tiger Lillies‘ contribution to the world of theatre, the band recently collaborated with AndrĂ©ane Leclerc on The Whore Of Babylon. If you were unable to catch a performance fret not, the soundtrack was released in May. Whores, horses and dogs are rife in this reimagining of the bible legend, twisting Hell on its head and lacing it with melancholia.

“Edward Gorey enjoyed ‘Banging in the Nails‘ so much he sent us a large box of his unpublished stories, some of which we adapted and turned into songs”

The Tiger Lillies

As if 4 album releases aren’t enough The Tiger Lillies have thrown their hat into the ring of live streaming. In each show (there has been 1 for each Covid-19 album) this band effortlessly stand out from the wave of musicians flooding the internet. For an act favouring intimate concert halls and theatres (not to mention with the band being split between Berlin and Athens) the change to live streaming seems a big risk, yet Martyn and Adrian bring such intimacy to the performances one feels as though both men are in the room, looming from a shadowy corner. Certainly, one struggles to think of a post-lockdown show that can match up (although A Void, Wargasm and TV Priest are contenders).

To have such output in only 3 months places The Tiger Lillies in a league of their own, although with a sound like theirs they must be used to that. Where others delayed albums they recorded 2, while miles apart they performed to audiences, and not once did the music suffer for it. To take us through the rest of isolation are 3 newly released albums and 1 rerelease of a classic; a total of 52 songs from the dark lords of modern cabaret, and 2 live shows for those prepared to let these men into their homes.

Do you agree with us that The Tiger Lillies are the pinnacle of pandemic performers? Do you think another act deserves our attention? Get in touch and let us know. In the meantime let’s see if the second wave brings us Covid-19 Vol.3.

Bandcamp: Covid-19, Covid-19 Vol.2, The Gorey End, The Whore of Babylon
Spotify: The Whore of Babylon
Youtube:
Covid-19, Covid-19 Vol.2


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About callumfcsteele 42 Articles
London based promoter and musician

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