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The Tiger Lillies continue to bring rock circus to stage

You can call them degraded. You can call them demented. But don't you dare call them a rock band. London's Tiger Lillies is a three-piece band that combines influences of German cabaret, British music hall tunes, gypsy song and opera, with underlying tone

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The Tiger Lillies continue to bring rock circus to stage

By Toni Baca
You can call them degraded.  You can call them demented.  But don't you dare call them a rock band.

London's Tiger Lillies is a three-piece band that combines influences

of German cabaret, British music hall tunes, gypsy song and opera, with

underlying tones of blues, jazz and even ska.

The group's

latest album, The Gorey End, was released this year and created with

San Francisco's Kronos Quartet. The album features the unpublished work

of the late, wonderfully morbid storyteller, Edward Gorey.

Frontman Martyn Jacques "has no interest in contemporary music. 

He hates guitars...and isolates himself by listening to music from the

1920s and older," according to contrabassist Adrian Stout.

Finding rock n' roll to be boring and predictable, the group has

managed to create an innovative style of music featuring Jacques

singing opera-styled lead vocals, while playing the piano

accordion.  Stout plays a double bass and also sings, while

percussionist Adrian Huges bangs away on drums, pots and pans, and

plays with squeeze toys.

Despite their attitude towards

modern music, The Tiger Lillies manage to incorporate a very

controversial and edgy attitude in their music.  Songs include

subject matter of death, prostitution, drug addicts, drunks, various

forms of blasphemy and twisted story telling.

"We don't sing about happy things very much," says Huges.

The band was formed in 1989 and began by playing in bars to a mostly

drunken audience.  Songs of macabre street life may have stemmed

from Jacques spending over five years in London's Soho, living above a

strip joint and indulging in unreputable activities.

Their

drunken audience, over time, has expanded to include sober people far

and wide.  They now have a dozen albums to their credit, a large

cult following in London, received two Oliver awards last year for

their theatrical performance in ShockHeaded Peter, a "junk opera," and

their fans include cartoonist Matt Groening, and actor Robin Williams.

The Tiger Lillies spend a great deal of time performing all over the

world.  Years of performing nightly have only recently brought

success, though the band still mostly wallows in obscurity.

Their performance has been described as a "frenetic three-ring circus."

Jacques sings about Europe's lowlife "with the voice of an

angel."  While clad in Victorian apparel, "his eyes roll up into

his skull, his head wrenches to one side as if in spasm."

The musical pieces can vary from being dead serious to a sudden "absurd silent drumroll, playing drums with a blow-up sheep."

The group will play at Bimbo's in San Francisco on Oct. 29.  To

see them live is to feel as if you are dancing toward your

damnation.  One warning before deciding to explore the dementia of

this band, in Jacques' own words, "If you haven't got a sense of humor

- about life, religion or sex - you're (screwed)" .

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