When Tigercats first bounced into our lives in 2012, they seemed like the very definition of a lo-fi, joyfully ramshackle twee indie-pop act. They obviously owed a musical debt to Los Campesinos!, sang songs about veganism and girls who worked in independent record stores, and had songs with knowing nods to figures of pop culture, ranging from Konnie Huq, via Kim Deal And Thurston Moore, to Stevie Nicks.
Six years later, and Tigercats have morphed into a very different proposition. The band’s second album, Mysteries, showcased a more downbeat side (too downbeat for some long-term fans) but Pig City seems to develop and mature their sound while relighting the spark that made Isle Of Dogs such an irresistible debut.
Much of Pig City has been written around the Kalimba, an African thumb piano, and this understandably lends a slight Afro-centric feel to many of the tracks. Yet with saxophones and brass sections aplenty mixing with the usual bittersweet vocals of Duncan Barrett and Laura Kovic, this marks a new, dense and exciting sound for Tigercats. Also, with it being their debut for Spanish label El Segell del Primavera – following the sad demise of Fortuna POP! last year – it sounds appropriately sunny.
There’s an ambition to Pig City that’s obvious from the first double-whammy of Eucalyptus I and Eucalyptus II – two very different songs, despite the title, with the first having an almost slow-burn quality to it, before the dizzying rush of Mark II kicks in, with Terry Edwards’ saxophone careering all over the place like an out of control skateboarder.
Lyrically, there’s a burning anger directed at the gentrification of the band’s native East London, but this never becomes a rage-fuelled polemic – instead, the self-explanatory title of Stay Out Of Limehouse becomes one of the most danceable, joyous odes to community resistance (“I’d sooner see this town razed to the ground, everybody out there singing”), while Perfect Fried Chicken, with its sunny brass section, could well end up becoming one of the sounds of the summer.
Planet Thanet is another standout, a bright, brassy sunny anthem with a chorus that sticks in your head from the moment you hear it, while Candy’s Tailor manages to namecheck the Institute of Contemporary Arts while also condemning catcalling (“you shouldn’t call me honey, I don’t think you know me… can you smile for me?”). The addition of Allo Darlin‘s Paul Rains on guitar continues to pay dividends, bringing that particular band’s template of uplifting yet melancholic indie-pop.
There really isn’t a bad track to be found on Pig City, from the percussion-heavy, almost spoken word drawl of Essential Surrealists right up to the closing, wistful So Sorry, which is reminiscent of peak Mercury Rev at times. It feels like a huge step forward for Tigercats, and while it may not be to enough people’s tastes to see them going mainstream, it definitely feels that this particular Pig City is about to experience visitors both old and new to its environs.