British weirdos wield razor-sharp satire

There is, to me, something distinctly English about the Tiger Lillies' brand of satirical weirdness.

What: Tiger Lillies

When: Monday night

Where: Metro Studio

Rating: Four (out of five)

Adrian Chamberlain, Times Colonist

Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Read original article Here.

There is, to me, something distinctly English about the Tiger Lillies' brand of satirical weirdness.

True, band-leader/lyricist Martyn Jacques owes a large debt to Kurt

Weill and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera - a celebrated piece of

German musical theatre. Jacques likes to sing of the seamy side of

life: prostitutes, drug addicts and other they-only-come-out-at-night

types. And like Weill/Brecht, he find joy in the blackest of humour.

At the same time, the Tiger Lillies' music seems a very Brit thing.

Perhaps it is Jacques' accent, or his bowler hat, or his waistcoat. Or

maybe it's the level of nastiness within the lyrics, which pull nary a


After all, the Lillies' gig Monday night did end with an encore about

booting a baby down the stairs - capped by the drummer walloping his

kit with a cute little baby doll. Think opera (Jacques likes to sing in

a counter-tenor), cabaret and Eastern European folk music with a little

Clockwork Orange lobbed in for good measure.

Jacques appeared in white face, his eyebrows drawn into a frown, his eyes reddened into a bleary gaze.

He was joined by James Joyce look-alike Adrian Huge on percussion and

Adrian Stout on acoustic bass and bowed hand-saw. Accompanying himself

on accordion, banjo and grand piano, Jacques sang songs about circus

freaks, his promiscuous Aunt Mabel, lust, gin, salivating, farting,

envy and killing people.

He rarely smiled; his face looked pained.

The Lillies performed one of their best and most outrageous songs, Banging in the Nails, about the crucifixion.

"Nail him to the cross/The poor old bastard bleeds to death and I don't

give a toss," sang Jacques, looking like he didn't give a toss.

The rest of it can't be quoted in a family newspaper. The drummer

finished off Banging in the Nails by battering his drum kit a la Keith

Moon until parts of it tipped over.

If this show sounds offensive, that's because it was. Yet the Tiger

Lillies are, paradoxically, also very funny and curiously refreshing. I

suspect a major tug in their appeal is that they provide a cathartic


The Lillies give voice to the unthinkable, with eyebrow-wagging Jacques

coming off as an amiable Beelzebub. He was even happy to field requests

from the audience.

This was not a night for earnest, politically-correct types. Murder,

suggested the Lillies cheerfully, is "better than sex."  Burning

down houses and factories is also good fun. So is copulating with a

sheep called Wellington (for this song, Jacques released a wind-up toy

sheep that crawled across the piano and tumbled into the strings).

At times, Jacques sat down at the grand to play a slower, dreamier

ballad. These songs had a strange, languid beauty all their own.

At their best, however, the Tiger Lillies adapt a raucous and nilhistic

position  reminiscent of the cowboy who jubilantly rides the

nuclear bomb in Dr. Strangelove.

"The crack of doom is coming very soon," sang Jacques, adding, "Don't worry, it will end soon."

We may be all, to quote another band, on a highway to hell. The very least we can do is have a joke and a giggle.

? Times Colonist 2007