decade aquarium drunkard

What is it that makes us want to deconstruct art by units of time? Lists. We love making them. We love arguing over them. And here, on the verge of a new decade, we’re in a position to do the same again. What were the best albums of the past ten years?

Here at AD, we started talking it through and decided we weren’t going to add to the cacophony of lists being put out by various music pubs. There are enough of those. Rather, we elected to let our four main writers have a chance to write about any and all of the albums they felt shaped the last decade.

From now through the end of December, Monday through Thursday, AD will feature a post, or posts, from a particular writer detailing their favorite albums of the decade. On a given week there might be one album a writer talks about, there might be six, but they’ll get a chance to have their say on everything that comes to mind. Our hope for you, the reader, is that you’ll jump in with your comments on the album selections – tell us why you agree or disagree – and also be exposed to some albums that you may have missed over the last ten years. Now, as the decade starts to wind down, let’s celebrate.

TBWI’m not sure if there’s a Side A that I played through more times this decade than the first five tracks of this housewrecker of an album.  Released in 2005 on the tiny Hello Sir Records, Tiger Bear Wolf roars and bucks with an intensity of passion typically unheard-of in rock music—well, ever.  Even now, four years removed from its release, I can’t think of another record in the past ten years that’s this sweaty, this muscular, this rockin’.  Tiger Bear Wolf is one of the great intellect-killers, the type of rock record the reorders priorities and bloodies a few noses in the process.

The whole thing begins with a roughly-plucked guitar harmonic, a demi-second of beauty before the entire band crashes into “Something Worth Saving” at the same time, slightly out of time with one another but everyone making the same point.    Lest you wonder, the thing worth saving is rock ‘n’ roll, which seemed fine before the record began, but as soon as guitarists and co-vocalists Noah Howard and Jonathan Moore have begun trading shouts and riffs and bending their necks into a slow, bashing groove of a bridge, you’ll start wondering what happened to rock ‘n’ roll, and before the answer moves from one of your lobes to the other, they’re already punching their way through “Wrong Lens, Wrong Film”.  These guys don’t play their songs—they have their way with them.

Musically-speaking, the Greensboro, NC, foursome come across like Fugazi on a swamp boat, breaking post-punk patterns over their knees and letting the guitars off of their leashes.   Guitars skitter over Lawrence Holdsworth’s flittering drum patterns in “Input, Output”, monstrous open chords caught down in kudzu and twisting riffs which eventually curve up and into Muddy Waters’ territory.  From the gummy production to the swamped-out rhythms, this is distinctly Southern music, and it embodies all of the things that make the region special: dissonance, emotion, raw power, and a holy sense of purpose—even when they pound so hard that they sound like they’re going to fall apart, Tiger Bear Wolf still push towards some awful, unseen goal.  In fact, if there’s any critique of Tiger Bear Wolf, it’s that they go too far; listening to this record the whole way through can be like having your head held under water while being kicked in the shins.  That said, sometimes my shins need a good kicking, and my head could usually stand to be dunked—and why worry about coming up for air when the water tastes so good? words/ m. garner

(In the interests of full disclosure, it should be noted that AD contributor J. Neas is good friends with the guys in Tiger Bear Wolf, though I had no idea of such when I first proposed writing about them for Decade.)

MP3: Tiger Bear Wolf :: Input, Output
MP3: Tiger Bear Wolf :: You Play Guitar

+ Download Tiger Bear Wolf via eMusic’s 25 free MP3 no risk trial offer

21 Responses to “Decade :: Tiger Bear Wolf, S/T (2005)”

  1. Oh man, this effing band. Totally forgot about them — thanks for the reminder.

  2. i to forgot about this band. i think this came out when i was still working at my college radio station

  3. when i heard “input/output” on WUAG (greensboro) i thought it was an old, unreleased Hot Water Music song…. and I mean that as a compliment of the highest order.

    I lucked out when i stumbled across the CD in a Somerville, MA used bin (score!). My copy is on Hello Sir Records not Secret City though, FWIW.

    Great record… since JNeas knows these chaps can he give us some sort of update? still active? ever tour down here to Florida? follow-up coming soon/ever?

  4. This record was my # 3 album of 2005 on my radio show’s year end album list. It’s a dynamic piece of work. I’ve known these guys since 1999 – went to college with them and most of them still live here in Greensboro. They still play occasionally, though it’s kind of rare – life has them all busy. Jonathan Moore has done some excellent work with other projects – a now defunct band called Health and a current one called Romancer that are both fantastic, though quite different from TBW.

    TBW are working on a new album that is in the middle of recording. I have no clue whether they plan to tour on it or not, but I know they’re hoping for it to be out in the first half of next year. It might end up being their swan song considering half the band will be in Maryland as of next year and the other half here in GSO, but I hope not.

    @Mark – Are you from the area? I DJ at WQFS (Guilford College) myself.

  5. @mark — you’re right, it’s on Hello Sir. My bad!

    @neas — way to go with McLusky! It’s rock ‘n’ roll day!

  6. Thank you for posting this article introducing me to TBW – the bias is entirely justifiable. Not since (recently) listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk has a record moved me and latched onto me as TBW’s s/t debut. What a phenomenal album.

  7. What have they been up to seems like they just fell of the map?

  8. these dudes ruuuuule

  9. @Jneas — no i live in gainesville, fl… just somehow got turned onto WUAG and WKNC and listen to them sometimes at work. Even though we have a university of 50,000+ we have no college radio here 🙁

  10. @mark – yr not a gator fan are you? i went to LSU and the bossman went to UGA. This is a serious SEC blog.

  11. And this guy went to Auburn. Just sayin’.

  12. Also, these dudes do rule. Excellent pick, Marty. Thanks for the introduction.

  13. Guilford College! Old Dominion Athletic Conference, NCAA Division III in the house!

    [/crickets chirp]

  14. @ j. neas – that was awesome.

  15. @ crosby — you went to auburn? oh man. oh man. so tempted right now.
    @ neas — you didn’t go to an sec school, did you? we’re gonna have to start writing about football.

  16. @neas — my bad, just realized you already answered that question.

  17. I didn’t go to a major conference school, but by virtue of my geographic raising, I grew up an ACC kid. So if y’all want to talk college basketball, by all means, I’m in.

  18. Don’t do it, Marty! I’ve suffered enough!

  19. I’ll say!

    (Couldn’t help myself)

  20. These guys totally sound like Heatmiser – good stuff!

  21. Saw these guys in 2006 on a bill with The Shame Idols at Cave 9 in Birmingham, Al. Bought this CD from one of the guys in the band and was blown away by it on the drive home. It stayed in heavy rotation for a long time, glad to see folks still digging this.

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