London Arts Board report Spitz

Again, like combining forces with McDermott & Crouch for the Shockheaded Peter event, the Spitz is the perfect venue for the Tiger Lillies:

London Arts Board report, 22 May 1998


Again, like combining forces with McDermott & Crouch for the

Shockheaded Peter event, the Spitz is the perfect venue for the Tiger

Lillies: it is relaxed, its unselfconscious audience ranges from 

20's to 60's, in cultural and sexual diversity, and this evening

represented another example of  successful programming: it was

packed to capacity. Again, friendly, energetic and informed staff 

ran the door and bar and cafe well.

The performance demonstrated to me that the band have a (cult)

following, and fit the present  fin-de-siecle mood of 'fuck off

political correctness'. The audience shrieked with pleasure at the

anarchic style of playing, and in particular at the often obscene or

blasphemous lyrics.

Martyn Jacques, 'Tom Waits on helium' as it says in their website,

admittedly has the voice of an angel, but of a fallen one, and with the

same concerns as Satan in Milton's 'Paradise Lost', tormented by

thoughts 'of lost happiness and lasting pain', since he is consigned to

Hell for good. Like all Renaissance writers, Milton expected his

readers to recognise evil and detest it, but the late C20th is less

certain, perhaps, so the moral position of the Tiger Lillies' work is

more ambiguous.

The lyrics certainly seem to suggest God is dead, or if he isn't he is

randomly cruel and hateful. Much of Jacques's humour is (still?) that

of a twelve year old Catholic grammar schoolboy, saved  only by

musical talent from puerile scatological farce. At times he sounds like

a Dalek, (the man   next to me winced as he hit his top

notes) singing about murder, sadomasochism, the national front, or with

cruel relish about Jesus' crucifixion and children's deaths by

misadventure. Everyone 'deserves' what they get in the amorality of the

lyric, yet there is also an awful space made  quite explicitly for

audience judgment in selected songs, in their tragic style of

performance. This can range from a melancholic parody of a waltz to the

pathological repetition of punk, driven by the percussion and

double-bass as pure rhythm.

The music, performed for this event in a kind of failed drag, was

evocative of 1930's German Weimar cabaret or Brecht/Weill opera mixed

with leftbank Parisian street accordion, but it also touched on other

European influences, such as an extraordinary variant of gypsy song

which also addressed the historical persecution of the gypsies. So

occasionally the work can be deadly serious, and then the next piece

might feature an absurd silent drumroll, playing drums with a blow-up

sheep, or holding a tiny toy drummer up to the microphone.

Perhaps the best description is 'seriously juvenile',- where the

drummers breasts turned out to be made of wigs, where a bra was thrown

on stage, where the audience wept with laughter, where the band were

all Butcher Boys grown up dangerously unrepentant.

The website: was lively, anarchic, and very well

structured. Over 2,700 visitors so far have enjoyed information or

entertainment (e.g.: the 'hate mail' mail releases and criticism or

comment site). I contributed some comment direct, as I felt sure the

band would approve of uncensored feedback, and felt the site was as

successful as their performance!