Tiger Bear Wolf – S/T

Oh my. Ferocity is most certainly not in short supply on this North Carolina quartet’s wild-eyed debut. Neither are the utterly bruising guitars and rabid vocals, all presented in a refreshingly unfussy style, a big ornery noise produced on a budget with every resource spent toward creating a sound that swipes at your head with bloody, razor-tipped claws.

Tiger Bear Wolf barely bothers with niceties like melodies, preferring feral hardcore howls over dueling and tortured riffs, but what’s especially impressive is how the band manages to sound like a product of more than just the outrage of punk and post-punk outfits. Aside from the throat-shredding vocals of heroes like the Jesus Lizard, the math-rocky avalanche of drum fills and the instrumental menace of some incorrigible unit like Shellac, there’s something about Tiger Bear Wolf that just feels like good old rock. And it’s not just because they shout “I pick up my guitar because I know / one thing worth saving is rock and roll” on the leadoff track “Something Worth Saving.” I don’t think that’s meant to be ironic, by the way. Tiger Bear Wolf seems to have genuinely caught the rock and roll spirit from another of its admitted influences, the MC5.

I’m not sure I want to or can break that appeal down, but the fact is a track like “I Can’t See the Light” rocks brutally without the self-consciousness of someone beholden to their indie forbearers. A lot of that is because the riffs often sound rooted in classic hard-rock changes, uninterested in any weirdness for its own sake, though they can be as snaky and challenging as you please. No one will mistake Tiger Bear Wolf for Aerosmith though; it’s just that the band’s energy feels more like an expression than a reaction, an out-of-control good time instead of a desire to position the band on the right side of music history. I hope that makes sense.

Still there’s a formlessness to some of the tunes here that keep them from digging in as deep as they might, more true for the second half on the record. And though much praise has been singled out for the relentlessly hyperactive drumming of Lawrence Holdsworth, I found his constant barrage of fills to be distracting and not always as tight as they could be. But the guitars are a non-stop duel of warmly amped spitfires, no tricky effects, no unnatural distortion. As for the band’s contention that the members can’t sing for shit, I’m not too bothered by that; they can sure yell with conviction, and they’ll only need to learn a few notes anyway.

So stay out of Tiger Bear Wolf’s way. These guys are juiced, they’re uncaged, and they sound like they can tear the roof off any room you put them in.