Album Review: Rin Tin Tiger, “Splinter Remedies”

After being hell of broke for hell of long, I finally scraped together enough coins last week to download Rin Tin Tiger’s new full-length disc Splinter Remedies, which came out at the end of August. I think I’ve put it on at least once every day since then.

When I first saw the emo-folk duo Westwood & Willow that would grow into Rin Tin Tiger a few years back, I was struck right away by their acerbic attitude, obvious musicianship and sharp songcraft. But things really started to get interesting when Mr. Andrew added his give-no-fucks garage rock drumming into the mix; suddenly there was this powerhouse of a band, all shouting and playing the shit out of their instruments and generally making way more of a racket than an acoustic guitar-fronted three-piece has any business doing.

Rin Tin Tiger grew up a lot on this record. Though always clever and self-aware, there was a note of angst in some of the band’s early material like “Red Pony” and “Ghost Door” that’s now been tempered with some good old-fashioned cynicism. “Go on now, leave me with bad feelings, and we’ll both get some good writing done,” shrugs frontman Kevin in the rollicking Piedmont-picking folk singalong “Aluminum”.

Splinter Remedies accomplishes that enviable, paradoxical feat of asserting a band’s voice more confidently by actually tackling more styles, not less.  The band gets positively raucous on numbers like “Michelangelo” and “Precaution”, with Sean’s throbbing, asymmetric bass lines and Andrew’s rabid-hound thrashing underscoring stark, deranged lyrics reminiscent of At The Drive In.  And while RTT has always traded in the blues, most notably on the song “Toxic Pocketbook”, they sink even deeper into that cool mud with “Waterfront Blues”, which contains some of Kevin’s most biting lyrics to date: “I’ll pay a handsome ransom to retrieve that hostage sense of myself…I’m tired of making you come.”  Yet their familiar ground of countrified crooning is firmer than ever beneath their feet on such tearjerkers as “Haunted Now” and “Suffer No More”.

It’s my feeling that even some of the most beloved albums are weighed down a little by at least a song or two that just isn’t up to snuff (see: Radiohead, “Bones”).  But while I’ve got my favorite moments, I wouldn’t call any of the twelve songs on Splinter Remedies duds.  Besides having eclectic, interesting tunes, with all three members exploring the full melodic, rhythmic and textural palettes of their respective instruments (and all being fine singers to boot), Rin Tin Tiger seems to have achieved the power trio equivalent of using every part of the slaughtered beast.  I’ll leave it to them to divulge who’s the skull, the horns or the bladder.

You can stream and download Splinter Remedies here.