San Francisco’s unsigned royalty Rin Tin Tiger has returned with their release Splinter Remedies. But much like any highly anticipated release from California we have to ask ourselves, does it succeed in a brilliant display of “oohs” and “ahhs” or are there too many special effects and we feel like we’re experiencing some overrated Blue People Space Pocahontas?
Consider this, if you were to take a classic American truck (Chevy, Ford, your call), push it to the redline while speeding down the freeway with total disregard for the cars around you, waving the middle finger out the window, screaming at how they’re cluttering the world, your truck would be Rin Tin Tiger and the cars would be the Honey Boo Boos, Kardashians, computer generated pop and oversaturated money-hungry corporations of today. And the fuel driving this beautiful American construct is none other than Splinter Remedies.
The twelve, yes twelve, track album combines all the sweet spot folk, rolling RTT style and fresh harp-based jams we’ve come to love making this not only the largest undertaking for the trio from the Bay Area but clearly the most solid to date.
Calling Rin Tin Tiger “just folk” is like calling Moby Dick a minnow. All of the warm familiarity and smile provoking sensations the boys from the Bay have brought us in the past stand front and center right off the bat. Out of the gate we’re met with the acoustic rambling, swagger of all things RTT with the title-track. From here on out, there is definitely more to the release than I’ve ever seen out of these guys. Whether it be the standard folk presence (“Haunted Now”), the southern boastfulness combining with call-and-answer vocals (“Talkin’ Good Woman”) or the brilliant experiment of RTT sound taking them to a folk-meets-Talking Heads-like presence (“Precaution”) Splinter Remedies is a must hear beginning to end.
Seriously, do not miss a moment of this; you skip a track and you are truly missing out.
In Rin Tin Tiger and Toxic Pocketbook it was clear Sean Sullivan, Kevin Sullivan and Andrew Skewes-Cox were game changers in everything they do, but with their latest, you can truly feel the presence of each piece of the band making for one hell of an album. Perhaps it is a sense of maturity or coming to terms with their recording process, I’m not entirely certain; but what I do know is Splinter Remedies is everything a fan of Rin Tin Tiger, folk, or just great music has been waiting for.
When my son was born, my parents congratulated my wife and I on our good fortune then took me aside and said “look, we’re going to need you to take a picture of him in the same chair for a year or more so we can see how he grows.” I rolled my eyes and obliged their fancy, because that’s what you do. I’m glad I did because it is so easy to go back and say “oh, this is where he really started growing.”
Apparently that same year I put my arm around Rin Tin Tiger and metaphysically told them to release an album every year so that I could chart their growth. As I sit and listen to their first full-length LP, Splinter Remedies, I am saying “oh, this is where they really started growing.” We started with some sweet and simple indie folk goodness, transitioned into the frenetic. Now, Rin Tin Tiger is showing their talent at creating some amazing and jaw dropping folk rock.
I was a little tentative with the opening, which sounded a lot like Toxic Pocketbook, but as the album moved into “Spit,” I felt the turn. There was an edge, an agression that wasn’t there before. Andrew Skewes-Cox drums crashed more, Sean Sullivan’s bass seemed more insistent, and the vocals had more gravitas. By the time the casual finger-picking of “Aluminum” rolls around, I am hit in the face with such a 2×4 of emotion that I just want to go into the woods and cry for a day or twelve; not to recover from the blow to the head, but for the pathos behind Kevin Sullivan’s lyrics.
Fortunately there is enough pacing to prevent me from going full mountain man on my family. “Talkin’ Good Woman” and “Bloodstains” bop along and bring me out of the basement screaming “nothing’s gonna CH-A-ANGE” only to retreat from “Suffer No More.”
That’s what good songwriting is to me: the ability to control the mood of your audience. Rin Tin Tiger has learned how to work the puppet strings of the psyche in a way that is almost spooky.
Looking at this third musical photograph, I am like a proud parent seeing the moment their child grew in leaps and bounds. This photograph shows that Rin Tin Tiger should really be changing their soundbite to say “the recently signed band,” because to me that is one of the greatest pieces of music news that is missing in 2013. Splinter Remedies shows that these three men are ready for the next big thing. Go to their bandcamp page and drop down some cash for this album, then take a big bite of some authentic folk rock goodness.