Tiger Trap – Tiger Trap

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

It took me a long time to acquire this album – many years after I first heard it and fell in love with the band. Tiger Trap (named after the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes) was formed in 1992 in Sacramento, though guitarist/singer Rose Melberg had used the name for a solo performance the previous year. Melberg and high school friends Angela Loy (guitar/vocals), Jen Braun (bass/vocals), and Heather Dunn (drums) were together for only a year and released but one album (as well as a few singles). Still, their influence on the twee pop movement was considerable, and Melberg went on to additional success as half of the spare The Softies (with Jen Sbraglia of the All Girl Summer Fun Band) and with bands like Go Sailor and Olivia’s World, as well as via solo releases. Dunn later played drums for the Raincoats (reunion version, of course), Lois, and Dub Narcotic Sound System. The band was the inspiration for the Beat Happening song of the same name.

What I Think of This Album

Released on K Records and produced by Calvin Johnson, Tiger Trap’s self-titled debut is a charming, youthful blast of melody. To be reductive, it’s the American version of Heavenly (whose albums K released in the U.S.).

The energetic drumming on “Puzzle Pieces” demolishes any preconceived notion of what twee is and isn’t, while Melberg, Loy, and Braun harmonize with delicate precision and the guitars jangle away. There is a more downcast tinge to the tangy “You’re Sleeping,” this time with a more biting lead guitar part but the same bright vocals. The band gets noisy on “Eight Wheels,” and dreamy via layered vocals and arpeggiated guitars on the excellently-titled “Supercrush.”

The odd spy/surf guitar of instrumental “Tore A Hole” suggests a Bond movie score as performed by the Ventures. Album highlight “Words and Smiles” is a sunny, skirt-twirling piece of twee pop, with a niggling guitar part, drums being bashed left and right, and fantastic vocals. The foursome digs into darkness on the bitter “For Sure” (“I’d rather be without you / Than be anything like her”), which surges with hurt feelings and recrimination; the solo is excellent and the harmony vocals are essential.

The sing-song quality of “You and Me” underscores its fundamental sweetness, and the guitar line nicely evokes the lyrical reference to buzzing bees. I am shocked that the Wedding Present never covered “Supreme Nothing,” whose speedy and insistent thrum seems like it would have been irresistible to those Brits. “Chester” is really the only song here I could skip; the melody is slight and the changes from quick to sludgy are annoying.

Melberg and company bounce back with “My Broken Heart,” which sounds like a song that Vivian Girls would scuzz up with reverb and noise. “Prettiest Boy” is a ballad that highlights the women’s harmonies and the skilled drumming of Dunn.

The Best Thing About This Album

The guitars on this album are very well played.

Release Date

May, 1993

The Cover Art

You know what, I don’t hate it. It’s colorful and I like the handwritten look. I guess that’s a bouquet? It was designed by Beat Happening’s Heather Lewis.

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