I love the 80s. And who wouldn’t? If you’re an olde guy like me, the 80s were the peak of metal. The big bands were huge (Maiden, Priest) and new shit was cropping up everywhere (Metallica, Slayer). Luckily, as a teen back then I managed to hold down a job, so I was able to spend all my $6 hour wages on music at every opportunity. Despite that insatiable thirst for new music, I’ll admit that I never owned anything put out by NWOBHM also-rans Tygers of Pan Tang. Sure, I heard some of their stuff through the years (guitarist John Sykes, later of Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy, does some great work on early recordings), but for me, they stuck out only because Kiss kept stealing their album names. The Tygers put out Crazy Nights in 1981, Kiss did in 1987. They put out Burning in the Shade in 1987, Kiss released Hot in the Shade in 1989. Meaningless trivia, I know, but what I’m trying to say is that to someone who was a connoisseur of 80s metal, Tygers of Pan Tang were inconsequential.
That was the case for a lot of listeners, apparently, as the band broke up in the late 80s, resurfacing as many did in the 2000s to take a stab at the festival circuit. They’ve released a few tepid records since then, and this self-titled piece here is their 12th album. Contrary to what I was expecting when Steel coerced me into taking this on, Tygers of Pan Tang is not tepid. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Songs like the opener “Only the Brave” and “Never Give In” are foot-stomping, head-bobbing numbers with great vocal lines and tight rhythm guitar work. Same with “Do It Again,” an ode to the glory years, and album closer “Devil You Know.” Elsewhere we have the requisite power ballads “The Reason Why” and “Praying for a Miracle,” and a rousing cover of “I’ve Got the Music in Me” — an odd addition, considering a big beef the band had with record labels in their heyday was the forced inclusion of covers.
Tygers of Pan Tang has everything you want from an old-school record: catchy riffs, energetic anthems, wah pedals, pick slides, cowbell (but not enough!), talk box, and a couple of power ballads. While not all the songs hit home, none of them are outright bad. “Glad Rags” would have fit on a Poison album (and if you Google the title and click on the first link, the song actually becomes hilarious). The good-but-not-great nature of the album means it’s not going to have a lengthy shelf life, but it’s a blast to spin for nostalgia’s sake. The rhythm section is tight, the dual guitars play off each other seamlessly and drop in tasty leads throughout, and singer Jacobo Meille has the perfect voice for this style, nailing his performances. From that perspective, the Tygers hit on all cylinders, and probably make the material sound better than it actually is.
The biggest surprise for me with this new Tygers offering wasn’t the genuine homage to days gone by, nor the solid songwriting and performances. No, what took me by surprise was the production. Honestly, these songs aren’t markedly better than anything the band has released since they reunited this millennium, but previous albums sounded horrible. There was no punch, the mid-range lacked anything resembling presence, and the high-end was tinny at best. This release fixes all that and then some. It’s as well-produced as one could want for the style. All the energy of the band comes through in spades with the aggressive mix, and it’s a great example of what good production can do to average but immaculately performed songs. Don’t let the low DR score fool you: this is a sweet-sounding record.
Tygers of Pan Tang isn’t going to land on your Album of the Year list, but it’s a heckuva fun spin. Think of it as a glass of fresh lemonade on a hot summer day. The Tygers don’t take themselves seriously, and you shouldn’t either. That’s not to say they’re giving us musical vomit like Steel Panther: rather, they’re here to have a great time and make sure we do as well. If this album came out in 1986 it would be in heavy rotation on my turntable – hell, it might even have knocked Black ‘N Blue’s Nasty Nasty off its “1986 Awesome Hair Metal” perch.