Haunted Palace - 2017

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Edgar Allan Poe's Haunted Palace

After the critical and popular success of Cold Night in Soho at the beginning of the year, the Tiger Lillies return to their inspired stage shows with this new album, based on the life and works of the peerless Edgar Allan Poe.

In a dark and seemingly haunted palace a troubled poet struggles with his inner torments and how to express the images that possess his mind. Suddenly, there is a tapping, and he meets a raven of especially black and devilish character, who provides the poet with a certain ink that is darker than any other and will guarantee his lasting renown. The poet writes, frantically producing verse after verse, until soon the ink runs out. Desperate for more, he runs headlong through the many corridors and rooms of the palace, at each turn encountering a poem, a tale or an episode from Poe’s life, and scattered like so many discarded poem drafts, strangely pale and dying maidens...

 These scenes and tableaux take us through the visual nightmare of the show, which is punctuated at intervals by songs from a new suite written by the band’s singer-songwriter, Martyn Jacques, freshly for the occasion and based on Poe’s brief and turbulent life and timeless writings. The tragedy and black humour unavoidably force their way into the lyrics, most of which are adapted from Poe’s own writings but which are accompanied by a handful of original songs too. It is interesting to hear how Poe’s well-known naïve (but entirely successful) versifying style is such a fitting vehicle for Martyn’s own style of songwriting, with its distinctive line rhythms and tics of re-ordering parts of speech. This comes through, for example, in the epic sweep and tidal rhythm of “Annabel Lee”, invoking the sea that is as much the subject of the original poem as the lost love, or the sly and slightly queasy pacing of “Tell-Tale Heart”, with its oppressive, stalking tune. Curiously we also encounter almost a late-’60s rock groove in places (Tiger Lillies going psych...), which again is a neat echo since that was exactly the decade when there was such an interest in musicians carrying literary ideas over into lyrics or concept albums, alongside the heyday of spoken-word recordings.

The album, released on 6 June 2017, collects the songs that feature in the stage show, where the band is joined by a couple of professional actors. Visuals are the work of long-time Tiger Lillies collaborator Mark Holthusen (Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Lulu: A Murder Ballad), and were given their first outing at the Bergen International Festival; the show will then be taken to other venues in Europe during the autumn and then on into 2018.