Click to hear: “Wolves”
Derek Jackson is Portland’s Patti Smith. And this is his Horses.
Like Smith on that seminal album, Jackson delivers a raw performance that’s part spoken word, part punk rock. He croons, he shouts, he yelps, he growls. On “Wolves,” he even barks. He’s black, he’s sexy, he’s gay. He’s vaguely dangerous. His confident voice drips with charisma. You can’t keep your ears off him.
Hi Tiger’s sound is a nervy, jangly, danceable mix of Brit-pop and indie rock, though the music mostly serves as background for the shamanistic singer’s song-poems. On the first track, “Nukes,” Jackson gives a dramatic reading about a nightclubbing friend who died of AIDS while the band lays down a noisy club soundtrack. The album’s centerpiece, “The Field,” is a nearly 12-minute sound collage during which Jackson relates a queasy late-night encounter with a cruiser. It’s about twice as long as it needs to be (the first six minutes of eerie musique concrète could be cut), but the band gets points for reaching that far out.
“Wolves,” “20 Minutes” and “Hey Dan” are urgent rockers. Hi Tiger’s dramatic, mostly down-tempo reading of New Order’s “The Village” is a worthy interpretation.
There are a couple missteps. The closer, “Secret Life (The Heartbreak Mix),” was recorded live at Zero Station, an art gallery and frame shop in East Bayside where the band’s been practicing. It’s the only track not recorded by Ron Harrity at his Forest City Studio, and its relatively poor quality makes it stick out like a sore thumb.
Hi Tiger has some hurdles to clear — guitarist and keyboardist Roy Ghim has moved out of state, and they’re reportedly looking for another drummer — but Jackson and the remaining members are determined to keep going. This impressive, promising debut shows that they should.
— Chris Busby
For more on the band, visit hitigermusic.com.