Elvis Presley strummed fast and swayed his sinuous hips faster. Ed Sullivan of the Ed Sullivan Show didn’t approve, saying that it revealed “Coke bottle shapes” in the pants. It was the late 1950s, and it likely helped jostle some joints into the baby boom. Presley sped up country and infused some badass, rabid R&B to create rockabilly. With heavy crooning and a precision coiffed mane that a small aircraft could land on, his bouncy rhythms captured imaginations. On Tiger Army’s new album V •••-, Nick 13 channels all of the Elvis. Crooning, echoing, and good hair—it’s all there.
The band has a legacy of death-lust. Frequently collaborating with the AFI crew, the rockabilly sound fell in step with the eyeliner wave. It’s been 9 years since the band’s last album, and Nick 13 has been a busy man expanding on that sound with a solo country project. The twangy slide guitar exposed his influences steeped in a bygone era. V •••- lands in a realm of 2007’s Music from Regions Beyond with slowed down country tunes—with Little Richard supervising. It’s a campy development that boasts a dollop of doowop.
This isn’t kitsch to Nick 13 though, he lives and breathes as though he’s nocturnally six decades back. On stage in Boston this past spring, he said he felt like he was born in the wrong era. Their lead single “Prisoner of the Night” shakes hips with rolling piano keys and low saxophone that gets into your bones. It’s a jazzy, jangly tune that takes me back to my parent’s Oldies station … but subversified by the Cramps. Nick’s voice wavers through his vintage microphone casting you under his spell. On “I Am the Moth” a static strum of guitar reverbs into science fiction keyboards and a galloping rhythm. A female soprano lingers over the chorus like the infinite howls heard in the original Star Trek theme song. All of these new elements create an expansive dreamscape as Nick proclaims his life of darkness with death’s kiss.
That enchanting female backup voice appears again in “Dark and Lonely Night.” It’s a track that would be perfect for the final dance of a 60s sock hop where lovers come together to sway with their heads rested against each other. The sticky sound of fat strings bounce around Djordje Stijepovic’s upright bass and tap along with Mike Fasano steady’s drums—The rhythms of V •••- are a swooner’s delight.
Tiger Army slows things down, and aims to reintroduce classic rock ‘n roll roots. Take this album to a drive-in, a lookout point, or just cruising down an expansive road and let your mind wander. V •••- transports the listener to another time, space, and mindset. Roll up the cuffs on your bowling shirt and let Nick 13 show you his alternate universe. (Scott Murry)