I saw the Republic Tigers last week at the Record Bar, and the following night at the Brick, and they were good. There are six or seven guys in this band, with a couple of backing tracks to boot, so it definitely has a "team" feel. That's appropriate, considering the band is named after the mascot where bandleader Kenn Jankowski, also of the Golden Republic, went to high school in Republic, Missouri, which is outside Springfield. (Kenn has also been rumored to throw down a thick wad Banana Republic once in a while, purely out of his love for republics — but, please, don't call him a Republican.)
Spread out across the stage and playing expansive, semi-orchestral pop, the Tigers are an interesting ensemble. It's as if there's three frontmen: Jankowski's in the middle, cutting a small, elfin figure between the towering, mustachioed electric guitarist Adam McGill and the not-quite-as-tall acoustic guitarist Justin Norcross. It would benefit the group to either appoint KJ full-time lead vocalist — which is what they seem close to doing, anyway — or trade off more obviously between those three guys, all of whom look equally born to lead a band. That way, years from now, fans could argue about who sang which song on the Tigers' first album, like the way young Beatles fans are when they're learning to delineate Paul from John, especially on the howlers, where Paul's voice turns into that curly-lipped Isaac Hayesy chesty baritone like on "Lady Madonna." Christ, anyone still with me?
OK, so the Tigers need stronger lead vocals all around, and more focus on whoever it is that's doing 'em. That's my main point of critique.
Everything else is pretty great. Electronic-based, heavily layered pop can get meaningless fast, devolving into chatter and directionless jubilation (like on many of Broken Social Scene's tuneless jams or the average Flaming Lips concert*), but so far the RTs have demonstrated a devotion to melody and song structure that transcends any urge to throw sonic streamers all over the place and make a big mess.
Catch a Tiger by its toe** when the band plays the Main Street Cafe (now in the building the Icehouse used to be in, 3111 Wyandotte) on Friday, October 20.
And click here for the Tigers' song, Made Concrete
*Hey, I love the Lips, but at their concerts these days, it's like, Shut up with the blathering and Santa Clauses and play, Wayne!
**That's not racist, is it?