Miniature Tigers Miniature TigersTruffles
The little Brooklyn tigers say goodbye to 2010 with an album of cover versions as eclectic as it is appetising, in that sense aptly titled “Truffles”. After delivering a splendid (and vibrant and, yes, very indie, in the way The Sundays were indie in the mid-nineties) second album ( “Fortress”), last July (which included a tribute to Nabokov, on the shiny pop of “Lolita”), Miniature Tigers return with an album that was apparently recorded at home (in Charlie Brand’s room to be exact) and which mixes Madonna with T.Rex, Everly Brothers with Animal Collective and Velvet Underground with ABBA. Yes, a big banquet that Brand’s boys turned into a colourful box of chocolate and guitars that sometimes sounds like trumpets (or how to turn T.Rex’s coarse “Life’s a Gas” into an enchanting pop ballad).
But let’s start at the beginning. Where does a covers album begin? With the selection of the tracks. And believe me, to choose a hit like the (unjustly) forgotten and, yes, let’s admit it, at times embarrassing (but at the same time huge) “Take a Bow” and turning it into a piece of chamber pop with two voices (the second one very Beach Boys, taking advantage of the choruses Madonna forgot), says a lot about Charlie and his boys. In the first place, that they love music (and forgotten hits) above all else. And in the second place? In the second place, the don’t fear the big bad wolf, not even when he dresses up as Leonard Cohen: to sing “Fingerprints” as if it were a pulp Christmas carol perfect for busy Saturday at Wall Mart (why not?), is at least admirable. Few times has Cohen sounded so cool. Neither has Todd Rundgren. His “I Saw the Light” shines like your favourite car’s bumpers shine (without a doubt, the best track on the album).
And what about Abba? Well, there’s Brand. A boy who grew up in Arizona and probably never thought about where the hell a band like Abba came from (or rather, where they ended up, or where it all started: yes, the Eurovision Song Contest), who turns it into a modest freak-folk anthem (oh, Kimya Dawson would love this). Yes, modest, like the rest of the album. Yes, it’s obvious that it’s been recorded in one take (and in some cases, like “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, with just one man and a guitar: Charlie himself, who, as we can hear, isn’t very good at whistling), but that’s exactly its biggest virtue, because maybe the only thing all the elected tracks have in common is the over-production of the originals (every one in its own way, of course, you can’t compare Abba with the dirty machinegun of the Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday”, nor with the cotton candy of the Everly Brothers’ “All You Have To Do Is Dream”). The only thing Miniature Tigers have done is take them into Brand’s room (save “Kids On Holiday” by Animal Collective and “The Very Thought of You” by Ray Noble) and strip them naked. The results are significant. More than a rarity, this is another view of a fistful of, yes, forgotten, hits.