Browsing through a pile of promo EPs and singles around two months ago, and they were each of them a worthwhile listen, one release in particular caught my attention. “The Gold Rush” sounded somehow almost oddly different to the other songs I was inevitably comparing it with. Perhaps it was the contrast between the sparely orchestrated minor key and bass driven backing track and the verging upon falsetto vocal, perhaps the tone of subdued tension resulting from this, or was it the sudden brilliance of the midsection, breaking the carefully contrived atmosphere with startling clarity?. It was definitely, I decided, the song itself, perhaps the most quotably literate lyric I’ve heard for several months. I made up my mind after two listens to “The Gold Rush”: My Tiger My Timing were, as the parlance of the business would have it, ‘ones to watch’.
Two months later and both I and numerous others can breathe perceptible sighs of relief. There is quite definitely a place in the music world for a band as able, as musically adventurous, as downright elusively talented as My Tiger My Timing. The UK music press has taken to them to their hearts as if they were the lost saviours of Electroclash, the kind of band that can write songs that are more than the sum of their studio budget and can perhaps even make SynthPop very, very cool again. NME, XFM, Clash magazine, Artrocker and several more influential UK publications and sites have already given the south London five piece their glowing seals of approval, while BBC 6 Music provided Celeste with an Album Of The Day slot earlier this month.
That, I can already hear one or two cynical souls commenting, is a lot of hype, and possibly says more about the UK industry’s need for a certain type of Britpop band – the new St Etienne / Ladytron / XX – than their actual popularity might reflect and in an evermore backwards looking UK scene that remains in thrall to both the mid 90s and the late 70s, My Tiger My Timing are only just starting to make their presence felt. How the US audience (outwith the club scenes where several of their tracks have doubtlessly already been remixed beyond recognition) will take to them is another matter though. Certainly opening track “Wasteland” only wants its bass cranked up a turn and it’s a club floor filler. As it is, it’s a relatively unassuming slice of late disco given some darkwave synth runs to pep it up a bit, while “Written In Red” is convincingly the stuff of adolescent diaries and after school texting sessions, and if nothing else it makes the point that My Tiger My Timing are (or at least started out as) a Pop group, in the traditional sense of the term, one whose targeted audience are mostly under 20 and definitely under 30. My Tiger My Timing apparently began recording Celeste in 2008, and four years later there are one or two obvious moments where the band underwent changes of direction during that time, moving from purveyors of teeny pop to post-ironic synthmeisters, or ‘leaving school’ as it’s sometimes referred to.
And it’s amongst the unashamedly teen-friendly songs with titles such as “Endless Summer” and indeed “After School” that “The Gold Rush” stands out as not so much a sore thumb but perhaps as a 4x driving parent waiting at the gates of whatever academy My Tiger My Timing attend(ed). After the bubblegum pop that’s preceded it, “The Gold Rush” sounds as if it belongs on another album entirely and is a notably different conception of a song on several levels. ‘Well I know one thing / the house always wins’ opens the lyric and it’s the sound of a band whose abilities stretch beyond those of the chart friendly demands a previous producer might have placed on them, a noir-ish slice of claustrophobia and quiet desperation that alters the mood of the album irrevocably. Then ‘I am just a prisoner / locked inside your ribcage’ runs one memorable couplet from “Let Me Go” and whatever else you might think of My Tiger My Timing, their lyrics are occasionally superb, although they’re in a bit of a muddle in terms of style, needing to avoid sounding either too retro, too ironic, or too much like the teenypop band they began life as. It’s probably a sensation akin to treading a tightrope keeping ahead of their potential detractors and as this has only one of two possible conclusions, it’s perhaps where My Tiger My Timing are less reliant on their sequencers and a little more themselves that it’s possible to hear the band they actually are, as opposed to the band they may inadvertently find themselves mistaken for.
A year or two ago, I might have reviewed an album such as this very differently, including as many references as I could find to their influences and signing off with some sardonic jest regarding the album’s probable audience. Now that Jarvis Cocker really is an elder statesman, that the Human League can find themselves on the same bill as Gerry And The Pacemakers and Herman’s Hermits, and that My Tiger My Timing’s audience probably don’t actually remember the early 90s, let alone the early 80s, a review like that would seem somehow less than worthy of a band whose abilities aren’t perhaps best served by their needing to take four years to record their debut. Regardless of this, My Tiger My Timing have made a quite spectacular impression on the assorted movers and shakers of the UKs music scene or at least as spectacular as any band is able to now, in 2012 and no, it isn’t just a lot of hype.