Tiger High aims for the stratosphere with psychedelic ‘Catacombs After Party’ record

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With a generous helping of guitar fuzz and drenched vocal reverb, tight psychedelic garage rock quartet Tiger High kick-started a creative roll with their evocatively titled 2012 debut album Myth Is This. Jake Vest on vocals/guitar, sibling Toby Vest on organ/vocals, Greg Roberson keeping the backbeat steady on drums, and bassist Greg Faison are lifelong Memphians sharing an unbreakable bond exemplified by their work on various projects, including the critically-acclaimed studio band Hot Freak Nation with the Late Show’s Don Main serving as front-man and principal songwriter with Roberson on Lifetime to Lifetime.

A mere seven months later in November saw the street date materialize for second LP Catacombs After Party. Featuring 12 songs written, performed, mixed, and produced solely by the band at High/Low Recording Studios, Catacombs After Party is unquestionably an in-house production. The album clocks in at a sleek 45 minutes, with only three songs accelerating beyond the three-minute radio-ready range personified by the swinging ’60s.

Stand-out tracks include the ironic send-off of an opener, “So Long”, propelled by Faison’s driving bass line. “Where Are Our Arms” exhibits an ethereal sensation, particularly on Jake’s echo-laden vocals. Roberson contributes his best playing here with exceptional, pounding drums.

“Lightspeed” is a horse of a different hue. Suddenly kicking off with frantic playing that eventually melts into the chorus, sleigh bells signal a groove-laden performance heavy on two intricate electric guitars performed by the Vest brothers. As Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones would attest, it is guitar weaving at its best. And in a sly nod to an impending apocalypse, Jake confidently intones, “Time’s not moving on, time’s running out!”

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A red, aqua blue, and black skull embossed with a ferocious white tiger inhabits the center of the freaky cover of Memphis garage rockers Tiger High’s second album, “Catacombs After Party,” distributed on November 13, 2012. Art Direction and Design by Josh Breeden / Courtesy of Trashy Creatures Records

“Leave It Alone” is the ultimate garage rock anthem, perfect for that late night college party when parents have drifted to bed. Toby’s Farfisa organ playing is especially exemplary. His brother seems much more confident in his guitar playing when compared to Myth Is This, offering up insanely catchy solos throughout Catacombs.

The album’s debut single, “Be the Indian”, is notable for Jake’s time-shifting vocals — e.g. “now I’m just a static, shallow mess…” The instrumental break at the 2:20 minute mark of electric guitar, the rhythm section, plus a foreboding wind machine à la the Beatles’ “I Want You [She’s So Heavy]” are icing on the cake. An official video for “Be the Indian” was selected by MTV Hive for rotation.

“Ball and Chain”, co-written by Brandon Robertson, is one of the more conventional rock tracks. The prominent acoustic guitar, up high in the mix, is a rarity on Catacombs. A distorted electric guitar is a counterpoint in the right channel. Hearing Jake’s fingers slide across the frets gives the song a cool in-the-moment vibe. Indeed, it comes to a screeching halt when the singer quietly admonishes his significant other, “You belong to me.”

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A rainbow prism effect permeates Memphis-based garage rockers Tiger High. Keyboardist Toby Vest, lead singer-guitarist Jake Vest [Toby’s younger brother], bassist Greg Faison, and drummer-manager Greg Roberson are artfully captured in 2012. Photography by Dan Ball / Courtesy of Trashy Creatures Records

“No One’s Come to Call” has a haunted house-style organ — envision the soundtrack to any one of Vincent Price’s excellent, scary collaborations with director Roger Corman and you’ll have a good idea — providing a sonic bed underneath Jake’s lead vocal. At the two-minute mark, the band’s creativity is on full display with what sounds like syncopated sticks hitting the edge of a plastic container as Faison’s bass keeps everyone in time. Kudos are also in order for the fine backing vocals.

The final cut is the very psychedelic, doom-filled “Vibes.” At nearly eight minutes, it is definitely the longest track, and it may wear thin to many listeners. However, don’t give up the ship just yet. Jake’s manic solo guitar runs are killer at the midway mark. A crescendo signals numerous oscillating tape loops, ultimately giving way to what sounds like a bullfrog begging for his next meal. Shades of the Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9” come to mind.

There are a few clunkers on Catacombs. “Cry, Crocodile” is virtually unlistenable. “Coral Castle” has few redeeming features and presents a “been there, done that” vibe that many rock bands have already perfected. And it would be a nice change of pace to hear Vest sing occasionally without so much added reverb on his vocals, which tends to make the lyrics unintelligible.

Catacombs After Party is available as a 15-song cassette or as a 12-song CD through the Trashy Creatures Records secure web store or for digital download-listening samples via Bandcamp.

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Mysterious silhouettes unite as keyboardist Toby Vest, lead singer-guitarist Jake Vest [Toby’s younger brother], drummer-manager Greg Roberson, and bassist Greg Faison are Memphis-based garage rockers Tiger High as captured in 2012. Photography by Dan Ball / Courtesy of Trashy Creatures Records
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Drummer-manager Greg Roberson, lead singer-guitarist Jake Vest, Afro-sporting temporary bassist Leo Ramos, and keyboardist Toby Vest are a slightly reconfigured lineup of psychedelic Memphis rockers Tiger High standing against an American flag in this circa August 2014 candid. Image Credit: Trashy Creatures Records
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Art Direction and Design by Josh Breeden / Trashy Creatures Records

© Jeremy Roberts, 2012, 2017. All rights reserved. To touch base, email jeremylr@windstream.net and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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