Artist: "The Tiger Lillies"
Album: "The Gorey End"
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: EMI Classics
Reviewer: Max Burbank
If it were just the Tiger Lillies;
If it were just the Tiger Lillies backed by The Kronos Quartet;
If it were just the Tiger Lillies backed by The Kronos Quartet singing musical versions of story by Edward Gorey;
Now that, my friend, would be an album that would blast hole between your eyes and rewire your brain from the inside.
You don’t get to haul out the word ‘Brechtian’ that often as a writer, but I’d bet three pennies that no review of the Tiger Lillies ever got three paragraphs without using it.
The Tiger Lillies are an English Cabaret trio who play variously Piano, accordion, hurdy gurdy, musical saw, etc. while lead singer Martin Jaques sings/shrieks/chants/intones the lyrics in a high pitched, arch falsetto that puts one in mind of the Queen of England, or Noel Coward if someone applied several alligator clips to his nuts.
Edward Gorey became a fan of the Tiger Lillies after hearing their work in “Shock Headed Peter”, a theatrical performance loosely based on German cautionary instruction for youth of the 1800’s. Decidedly nasty tales in which wayward and thoughtless children come to violent dreadful ends, it was right up Gorey’s street. He wrote the Tiger Lillies and suggested collaboration. Sadly, he died before it could be finished, but it was well enough begun to be completed, and it’s a masterpiece.
Their music is grandly fleshed out by the brilliant Kronos Quartet, the songs are immersive. The listener is transported to a once magnificent music haul and can almost smell the velvet seats and curtains rotting.
I’ll close with some lyrics of “The Besotted Mother” to give you an idea of the albums flavor, but words can’t convey the combination of mirth and creepiness it exudes when heard. Should you stumble across the album or a full cut online, the first few minutes may be off putting. Keep listening. I guarantee you will soon be under their spell, a helpless vulnerable enraptured British child waiting placidly for a sudden, inevitable grisly end.
“Her husband left Goola Flibbage before the baby was weaned
To support herself and Florabelle as a charwoman she cleaned
She felt there had never been such a beautiful child, her friends they did concur,
It struck her how charming she would look in a costume of white bunny fur.
She bought a tam, some mittens, a coat with a little cape,
A necklet, booties, and to complete the ensemble a muff with a funny shape.
The first coolish day of autumn she dressed Florabelle in them all,
She left her outside a greengrocer when on him she did call.
A pack of wild dogs came round the corner, the butchers their intention,
They ripped Florabelle to pieces in a second.”
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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