Tigers Jaw has been keeping a relatively low profile since the release of Two Worlds. With members exploring new outlets like the more eccentric Three Man Cannon and the more confusing Wicca Pha$e, it seems that time set aside for the old standby has diminished lately.
Tiny Empires, on the other hand, is a band toeing the brink on the opposite end of existence. Featuring aging members of the now-defunct punk act O Pioneers!!!, the Florida quintet could be considered either the start of something big or the slow-burning end of a career. Just as these bands’ lives suddenly lie somewhere between hectic and halted, the quality of the songs on their 7” split rest in an awkward trench between impressive and sub-par.
Tigers Jaw contribute “My Friend Morrissey” and “No Mask/Haze Coffin” to the split, the former being a track that could have nestled tightly into Two Worlds and the latter being an upbeat, pop-punk jam — reminiscent of the group’s self-titled album — that screechingly fades into a dismally moaned McIlwee acoustic track. Both tracks are enjoyable, even head-turning at times: check out the jazzy guitar and drums of “My Friend Morrissey” against Brianna’s emotionally thick keyboard chords, the perfectly urgent riffs of “No Mask” playing off of Pat’s lively punk drum beats.
However, disappointingly hazy production throws a blanket over the tracks’ emotions. The shoddy workmanship wouldn’t be so distracting if it wasn’t such an obvious step down from Two Worlds. And, on an unrelated note, the aforementioned acoustic whimpering on the tail end of “No Mask” is painfully overdramatic. But overall, Tigers Jaw present two solid songs betrayed by poor production value.
Tiny Empires’ contribution to the split, “Check Out My Boneyard/Interview With A Jampire/The Dream Is Still Dead,” is an eight-minute personal retrospective on punk music from a thoroughly weathered veteran. The production ranks slightly higher than Tigers Jaw’s side of the split, and lends itself to the song’s ferocity. New guitar hooks wheel into frame every minute, tempo is consistently inconsistent, and thoughtful yet easily grasped lyrical themes help tie the whole glorious mess together. One of the song’s strongest points is also its downfall—vocals. The grizzly howl that brings new life to the words “You know things change” comes from the same mouth that melodically stumbles over the song’s vocal introduction. Rather than missing notes in a confident yet emotionally distraught manner (see: Glocca Morra), the mediocre crooning in the song’s introduction sounds embarrassingly unrehearsed.
Should the self-declared “older men” in Tiny Empires decide to pull themselves together for a mature, reflective LP, we can safely assume that they’ll throw in the extra elbow grease to sidestep awkward vocals and magnify already passionate musicality. If this song serves as the end of a career, the guys have gone out with a bang, albeit a drunken one.
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