REVIEW: Tigers Jaw – ‘Charmer’

'Charmer' is available now via Run For Cover Records

Charmer is surprisingly characteristic of Tigers Jaw given the band’s fairly turbulent activity. After the release of 2010’s Two Worlds, the band went on hiatus, and then split. Recent tours included only the two remaining members and three temporary replacements. But Charmer is not the narrowly envisioned product of drastic personnel change. In fact, Tigers Jaw’s classic incarnation—fronted by both Ben Walsh and Adam McIlwee—reformed to finish the record. Even so, musically, Charmer shows very few signs of dwindling chemistry between those who remain in the band full-time and those who have since left. Lyrically, it may be a different story.

Maybe it’s in the fact that Charmer features almost none of the verse swapping of previous releases. Walsh and McIlwee front five songs apiece, with hardly any overlap. Charmer is vague enough to allow for interpretation, but it’s easy to conclude that much of the record centers on relationships within the band. “I can’t sleep in other beds” and “I was getting bored of the compliments” are curious admissions. Charmer is like a sequence of short email exchanges between two people who just aren’t on the same page anymore.

It’s not exactly that, though. Keyboardist Brianna Collins contributes two strikingly melodious verses to “Hum.” Walsh and drummer Pat Brier trade roles on the grungy “I Envy Your Apathy,” a curveball of a song that sounds awfully similar to Dinosaur Jr. “What Would You Do” closes the record with an inordinate amount of Moz-evoking melancholy, but McIlwee’s anti-clichés and severely depressed croon are compelling: “I feel you’re something. I feel your sympathy. I don’t feel anything at all.”

Tigers Jaw is a band that sounds as though it isn’t participating in or even actively aware of emo revival. Charmer is an emo record at heart, but its 12 tracks are just as much simple punk rock songs. “Cool” has a driving energy and playful riffs. “Frame You” is downright loud and unrestrained. And “Distress Signal” makes a welcome return after having appeared on Run for Cover’s Mixed Signals compilation in 2011. On Charmer, Tigers Jaw is equal parts The Get Up Kids and early Weezer. But that’s who they always have been, really.

Charmer includes all of the maturation one would hope to see from a band that disappeared for about as much time as it took to release its previous three full-lengths. It fits comfortably in the Tigers Jaw discography, final album or not.

Purchase Charmer on iTunes.