The Miniature Tigers of today is very different than what we first heard on the band’s 2008 debut album, Tell It To The Volcano. There isn’t a better way to describe their new release, Cruel Runnings, than as a summer record. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, it’s a non-stop synth bath that begs for repeats and trips to the pool.
?Most notable is the confidence that oozes from this album. Miniature Tigers—made up of Charlie Brand (vocals/guitar), Rick Schaier (keys), Algernon Quashie (guitar) and Brandon Lee (bass)—have changed quite drastically from each album to the next. Tell It To The Volcano was a more straightforward album with typical instrumentation and Brand’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics (which have continued to be a staple). Their sophomore album, FORTRESS, shifted with the addition of more keys and effects. It was clear at this point that Miniature Tigers weren’t one-trick ponies and were only playing by their own rules. This was especially true when it came to Mia Pharaoh. While revisiting aspects of both previous albums, the band dove into a retro-pop style far enough outside of the box that it left some fans scratching their heads. While I won’t go anywhere close to saying that Mia Pharaoh was a disappointment, It didn’t quite have the magic of FORTRESS or the simple novelty of Volcano. But Cruel Runnings has perfected the ‘80s pop feel that first showed its face on Mia Pharaoh.
?Where Mia Pharaoh was mostly about the initial power of falling in love, Cruel Runnings focuses on the reality of the ups and downs that come with being in a relationship. In “We Used To Be The Shit” Brand sings about losing that power of love with lines like “Our love was warm like a VHS tape of Aladdin / Now our love’s so cold / Laser disc of Cruel Intentions.” Brand delivers plenty of witty lines like this throughout the album and sounds great doing it.
Cruel Runnings is full of upbeat and catchy songs with melodies that’ll stay with you long after hearing them. Lee’s bass lines, once again a highlight of the album, create a groove that will get you moving. Once paired with Schaier’s intricate keyboard parts and Quashie’s guitar playing, it leaves what may be Miniature Tigers’ most cohesive album in terms of instrumentation.
?Sure, Miniature Tigers sound worlds away from their early days, but deep down they’re still making indie-pop—or whatever you choose to call it—that’s clever, original and most of all, fun.