Ad Nauseum review in www.fasterlouder.com.au
Darkness, whores, murder, dribble, disease, load-shooting, pimps, pushers, thieves, suicide, crap, vagina dentata, Jesus and bumholes. What more could you ask for in an album?
Click here to buy Ad Nauseam
Reported by: Luke - Thursday, Dec 09, 2004. 14:59
If Dickens had been allowed to use the word ?fuck? in print, he
probably would?ve ? given enough alehouse repose - come up with The
Tiger Lillies. They certainly are not a band for everyone.
They?re vile, offensive, and unashamed to embrace vulgarity in the same
breath. There?s moments of sublime lyricism, and moments of
projectile-vomit grossness. They?ve got an album solely dedicated to
bestiality, after all. A three-piece from the UK, they?re probably best
categorised as deranged folk: upright bass, trap kit drumming and
(usually) a healthy burst of breathy accordion or banjo. Nothing
strange there ? but when the gritty falsetto/castrati (which doesn?t
let up) of frontman Martyn Jacques kicks in, that?s when the band?s
sound is really cemented. It?s the voice of someone who lived above a
strip-joint in Soho for years, someone who picks at the scabs of
humanity. Someone who plays gigs with a deadpan face, while dressed in
And, at times, it can be angelic.
Of course, the singer?s voice is, sometimes moreso than the
subject-matter, a stumbling-block for listeners. Unashamedly
non-ProTooled, it?s a living, biting bastard of a thing that works its
way through the disc?s catalogue of sins and misdemeanours, of
arse-fingering and premeditated killing. But, unlike other vocalists,
it?s a set of pipes that demands reaction. This is not passive
listening, and even hardened listeners are still taken aback at the
extremes such a vocal instrument can take.
This album ?
the band?s third ? isn?t the most polished, nor is it the most
concentrated. But it?s the best sampler of their work, and most
indicative of their seedy and scatological predilections. You might
recognise a tune from it, Whore, from Plunkett & Macleane, which
gave them a fair amount of exposure. But that?s only the start of
things. Though the band?s lineup would change ? Adrian Stout was yet to
join Jacques and James Joyce look-alike drummer Adrian Hughes (or Huge,
as he?d later be dubbed) ? the band?s sound is pretty much fully-formed
here. There?d be a bit more subtlety in future releases, though this
could possibly be put down to better quality recordings: some of the
songs here sound like they?re being heard through a particularly thin
dividing wall. Given the subject matter, though, this approach seems to
work rather well.
The album begins with Larder, and it?s a
pretty fair indicator of where things are headed. Clocking in at just
over one minute, it?s a tune about corpse-fucking near the kitchen,
although it?s not ? oddly ? as offensive as you?d imagine. It sets the
template for what?s to come; check your offended natures at the door if
you?d like to proceed.
The songs are, generally, pretty simple
affairs ? only five out of 24 tracks extend beyond three-and-a-half
minutes. There?s generally two types of song here: ebullient, wilfully
offensive gems that poke whack at life (such as the tongue-in-cheek
lament for arsehole-free French nuclear-testing victims in Bumhole, or
the sea-shanty, record-companies-are-shit tilt of Crap), or mournful
recitations about small, wasted lives (such as the dissonant
lamentations of Old, or the thumbnail of a dead junky in Disease).
There?s often a sense of Jacques having a fixed, rictus grin, of his
laughing at death in the style of a classic jester. But for all the fun
that?s on this record ? and it is one that often invokes hilarity? how
could Whore, a slink-filled lovesong with the lines
You are my whore
Even now, old and poor
You?re the one that my twisted heart adores
be anything but? ? there?s a real sense of despair and sadness seeping
through the witticism. People, in the world of The Tiger Lillies,
aren?t nice to each other, much less themselves. Much as Punch &
Judy shows ? something the band have gone on to release an album about
- are thinly-disguised scenes of domestic violence, the jubilation in
the tunes here often strikes a really disconcerting note. Songs about
the inherent entrapment of a shared life (Five O?Clock)
jostle up against masochistic pleas for love (Beat Me), ejaculatory
killing (Murder) and diahorrea-inducing, yodelling-approved
suicide-assisted attempts to obtain fame (Suicide). There?s nothing fun
about life here, even if the telling is hilarious. There?s even a tune
that casts Jesus as a bagman. Called, funnily enough, Jesus.
You're having hallucinations
You're hearing voices too,
The nurse?s giving you lots of drugs
'Cause they're fucking good for you.
Yes, turn this water into wine - you'll be popular if you do,
And you live in an underpass, next to Waterloo?
(Of course, this isn?t quite as blasphemous as Banging In The Nails, a
tune on a later album, where Jacques takes responsibility for the
crucifixion of Christ, and admits to getting an on-cross blowjob, but
it?s well on the way.)
Violet, the second-last track on the
album, is one of the more adventurous songs in this cycle. A relaxed
tale of being murdered ? and not being able to defend yourself in court
and being sentenced to death ? it?s akin to 25 Minutes To Go (a tune by
Shel Silverstein that would appear on one of their later albums) in its
examination of the processes leading to death. Notes are found, but too
late for the hapless protagonist, who repeats, as the song ends ? and
the communiqu? is delivered too late -
They hung me on Tuesday!
As glass breaks, and heaven awaits. It?s oddly hopeful, though the
subject matter wouldn?t lead you to believe it. It?s this kind of
subversion that the band excels at, and it?s curiously satisfying to
The last song on the album, Snip Snip is perhaps most
indicative of the future of the band. It?s the germ of a production ?
Shockheaded Peter ? that toured the world, based on Hoffmann?s
Struwwelpeter series of tales. A song about a boy who gets his thumbs
cut off because he sucks them too much, it?s a fabulously evil tune
that points the way towards the stage-shows of the future, while
keeping a sense of tradition, of history ? elderly tales of a
cautionary nature for children ? alive. It?s a song that highlights the
fact that not only are the band creating music, but they?re protecting
tales that?ve been told before. If there?s one band who should store
the Edward Gorey-styled horrors of childhood and life for future
reference, it?s these guys.
The reason this album works is
because it?s all about the fact that the characters ? be they the
subject of sympathy, or be they grotesque stereotypes ? are searching
for some kind of satisfaction. Lowlife scum might settle for something
much easier to obtain than you or I, but the characters bemoaning their
lot in the tunes here don?t necessarily hide that fact.
I?ve drunk a barrel of beer
To allay, to allay, to allay my fears
I?ve stuck my finger up your behind
I?m a swine, I?m a swine, I?m a swine!
sings Jacques in Swine. And why not? There?s no element of bullshitting
here, really ? there?s grandstanding, sure, and offense for the sake of
it, but there?s no lying. And it proves that honest examination doesn?t
need to be as po-faced as Coldplay might have you believe.
works of The Tiger Lillies contain a strange sort of alchemy. Like
scholars of yore attempting to uncover the philsopher?s stone from base
matter, the band transforms shit into gold, sometimes literally. True,
Ad Nauseum ? like the rest of their work ? isn?t something that you?d
play continually, or when you had easily-offended visitors. But it?s a
brilliant document of a band that criminally few people are aware of,
and who have been keeping the fine art of vaudeville alive? albeit with
a bit of bastardry. For a taste of the distasteful that you?ll be happy
to take ? but might be concerned about when you give it a bit of
thought later ? Ad Nauseum is perfect. If you?ve ever wondered what a
cabaret in hell sounds like, seek this out ? there honestly is nothing
like it, and it proves that guitar-bass-drums isn?t the only path to