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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?

http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/1478/

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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

discarded Victoriana.

 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

hear.

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.

The

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

hard-hitting creation.

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