Untame the Tiger by Mary Timony album review by Igor Bannikov for Northern Transmissions


Untame the Tiger

Mary Timony

As it’s expected for a true rock star and one of the main riot grrrl contemporaries and successors, Mary Timony was always into politics, being one of the biggest opponents of Trump and racial discrimination amongst other musicians, as well as, obviously, an advocate for feminism and freedom of expression.On top of that, she is also famous for her highly diverse contributions to the guitar universe, which surely belong in music history books. And her new solo album is further proof of it.

Using the weapon of her adversary, we can say that Untame the Tiger is a guitar-first piece in the best traditions of Throwing Muses, The Breeders, Screaming Females, and Sleater-Kinney, with whom Timony is professionally tied. As anticipated for a guitar-hero veteran, she delivers here an old-fashioned, classically trained, Steve Vai-devoted approach with a fingerpicking grace. No wonder, Carrie Brownstein, Snail Mail, and many other indie peers call her “a guitar god” while Rolling Stone puts her at the 95th place of their six-string list “The 250 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. As her service in Helium in the ’90s shows, there would be no Speedy Ortiz, Wednesday, Horsegirl, Feeble Little Horse, and many other guitar-laden bands without her RRR guitar licks (roaring, ringing, and raucous) like in “Pat’s Trick” or “The Dirt of Luck.” There is a whole line of “her guitar students” in the industry.

Timony is one of the main authors of the modern “guitar rulebook” which sounds like the 1970s are back but in a very loud way. We witnessed how ’70s prog and psychedelia merged with punk rock, early 2000s NYC indie, and almost pop in Wild Flag and Ex Hex music under her extremely virtuoso and versatile hands. And she continues doing all of these on her first solo effort in, omg, 15 years. Usually, to concentrate your attention on different instrumental parts of a track, you need to make an extra effort, but here, right from the opener “No Thirds,” a springy and omnipresent guitar line declares itself from the get-go. Its presence is so visible and dominant that it’s Timony’s command vocals that serve as an addition to it. Besides, long solos from the remote past of the golden era of smashed-on-stage-guitars peek out almost from every corner of the record, giving strong emotional and nostalgic coloring to it. And her music is still very theatrical, if you will.

That being said, it’s hard to tick particular genre boxes here, because the fabric of sound on Untame the Tiger is extremely volatile. “Looking for the Sun” with its marching guitar stomp, punctuated by almost Baroque music strums, evokes memories of Vivaldi and St. Vincent at the same time. “The Guest,” a playful cut with its gently weeping guitar lingers somewhere between Keith Richards’ exercises from the ’60s and the bluesy psychedelic of the ’70s, while Timony constantly pivots its sonics to the alternative of ’90s. “Summer” captures the essence of every good rock song from several generations, almost verbatim, all at once, including Rid of Me-era motives, “Dominoes” reproduces almost “Smooth Criminal”-ish tune with the bass line, and “The Dream” flows from a ballad in the vein of the “Brandenburg Concertos” to a cosmic, otherworldly canvas with orchestral elements.

In one number, we can clearly recognize PJ Harvey, whose influence was always evident in Timony’s oeuvre; in another, The War on Drugs’ (or maybe Mark Knopfler’s?) pastoral guitar licks or, er, sultanian swings evidently pop up (“Untame the Tiger”); in a third one, there is, for one, something like a Dungeons and Dragons’ soundtrack or at least Nick Drake and British folk from times and times ago. The thing is, in every case, in every review, each of us would have radically opposite comparisons. It’s hardly categorizable. And this is an indicator of Mary Timony’s, as they put it, “ferociously brilliant” ability to mimic musical traditions and simultaneously dissect and reinvent them. Unlike politicians criticized by her, she can be both in music: conservative and modern.

Pre-order Untame The Tiger by Mary Timony HERE


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