CD Review of Keep Color by Republic Tigers
Recommended if you like
Bourgeois Tagg, early Underworld, A-ha
Chop Shop/Atlantic
Republic Tigers: Keep Color

Reviewed by David Medsker


n order to describe the sound of Kansas City’s Republic Tigers – named after their high school mascot, awwwww – one takes the risk of quite possibly offending them. The boys are blissfully out of time, but that is not the problem. The problem is that they recall a sound and bands that are neither popular nor cool. There are certain periods in music history that are simply not discussed, and the Republic Tigers totally just went there. That’s right, they made a late ‘80s pop record.

It isn’t right or fair to be dismissive of one portion of a decade and not the rest, but it’s true; mimicking Missing Persons is permitted, but making a record similar to Underworld’s Underneath the Radar, for whatever reason, is tantamount to career suicide. Of course, Underworld went on to become one of the greatest electronic acts the world has ever known, a fact that we suspect is not lost on the Republic Tigers. This is no group of Johnny Trendhoppers. They clearly put an obscene amount of effort into Keep Color, the band’s debut, and the end result is a record that’s tuneful to a fault. The songcraft here is so strong, so remarkably well constructed that one wishes that they had taken the time to lighten up and just rock out once in a while. Still, when was the last time an album had too much melody? As problems go, it’s a nice one to have.

Republic Tigers

Take the calming, Travis-like guitars and cascading keyboards in “Buildings and Mountains,” paired with the best impression of A-ha’s Morten Harket that you’re ever likely to hear. “Feelin’ the Future” marries a minor-key surf ballad with talk of hayrides with hoverjets and bike rides with a jet pack on your back. Where on earth did these guys come from? The bio says the band came from the ashes of defunct Astralwerks band Golden Republic, but there was nothing on that band’s sole album that suggested this kind of melodic genius was within its grasp. Between the shifts in tempo (“Weatherbeaten”), the jumps from minor to major (“The Nerve,” “Fight Song”), and songs that move from 6/4 to 4/4 from one verse to the next (“Give Arm to Its Socket”), the album is an embarrassment of songwriting riches.

What this means, of course, is that the commercial prospects for Keep Color are fucked. Bands like the Republic Tigers simply do not grab the brass ring, as smart poppers Bourgeois Tagg, David & David and Fountains of Wayne will attest. (Admit it: “Stacy’s Mom” was an accident, not vindication.) That said, if anyone can manufacture inroads for a good, up and coming pop band, it’s Alexandra Patsavas, the Tigers’ label chief and onetime soundtrack supervisor for “The O.C.” If that doesn’t work, gentlemen, take heart; it didn’t work out at first for Underworld, either, and they turned out all right.

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