Maverick (UK) September 2009 The Tyrants In Therapy HIGH CLASS TRASH Emotional Coathanger EC 6303-09
****Wild and witty pop fun
I can’t remember when an album has delivered such an unadulterated good time and indeed as much sheer fun as the new Tyrants In Therapy offering. HIGH CLASS TRASH they call it and high class trash is exactly what it is.
Rooted in electro-pop and the genre that dare not speak its name, disco, Abbe Kanter and Michael J take gleeful delight in ignoring boundaries and taboos both musical and lyrical to cook up seventy-five minutes of musical high jinks.
Mindless fun this isn’t though. Words Like That points up the absurdity of (often self-imposed) censorship, BS Hollywood (you know what it stand for) nails another, admittedly easy, target, the title track is a pop at those with more money than class and My Masculinity (sung by Abbe) challenges expectations of gender and behaviour.
But it’s the fun stuff that lingers in the mind longest though, with songs like Apocalypso (which is, naturally, a calypso about the end of the world) and Zodiac worming their way into the listeners’ subconscious and setting up house. All of this is set to wildly catchy tunes and boasts singalong choruses to die for, with snippets of country, punk, blues and whatever else you care to mention, often all in the same song, delivered at breathtaking speed. It shouldn’t work but it does.
Trashy, ephemeral, serious and not at all serious, Tyrants In Therapy make perfect pop music. Check your ennui at the door and party! JS
A High Class & Trashy release from the Tyrants
After a 9-year hiatus, The Tyrants in Therapy are back in a really big way with “High Class Trash,” their new 21-cut cd on Emotional Coathanger Records.
“If this was a novel, it’d be a doorstop,” opines The Tyrant Michael J, cofounder of the long-lived new wave punk cabaret duo, “but hopefully it’s like a page-turner that you just can’t put down until the end.”
“This album touches on every kind of music we like,” continues AbbeAbbe, the female half of TIT, “we’ve got electronica, rock, disco, country, blues, and a whole slew of those novelty songs that The Tyrants seem to get remembered for.”
The result is a cross between The Eurythmics and Mel Brooks, or maybe a New Yorker cartoon set to music. Which in itself is pretty strange since the Tyrants have always been based in L.A.
TIT leads with their hearts on their sleeve, and the cd starts off conventionally (for the Tyrants, that is) with “The Truth Hurts,” a rocking Dylanesque duet, and they keep up the intensity with a blistering, housey declaration of devotion entitled “Ain’t Over Yet.”
With the roots rocker “The System,” TIT takes on America’s social prejudice, and then throw their first curve with the ironic “Apocalyso,” an island-tinged classic where AbbeAbbe foretells disaster for a world going to hell in a hand basket.
“Psychoactive,"(co-written by Terry Shaddick of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” fame) wouldn’t be out of place in a Manchester techno club, while the perky Country novelty “Zodiac,” might have come out of Dolly Parton’s mouth (if she’d dropped acid with Porter Wagoner).
The 14th Beatle makes an Appearance? Why not! “Saturday Nite Live,” is an achingly beautiful ballad of regret, and features frequent collaborator Marc Mann (of Oingo Boingo, ELO, and the Concert for George) on lead vocals. Then in the bluesy “My Masculinity,” AbbeAbbe relives a harrowing, gender-bending night on the town.
The Kinks and B-52 fans will find a lot to like in the mordant “BS Hollywood,” while ABBA lovers get their ear candy fix with the haunting Beethoven influences of “Once Upon a Time.”
With its reassuring message “Don’t Be Scared,” is a swirling romantic duet that recalls the late 80s Tyrants’ Hi NRG singles, but then TIT throws in some pure Punk Cabaret with “Cowboy Lounge” where AbbeAbbe (dripping with Flying Lizards drollery) leads a campy romp around a very special kind of bar.
“My Dying Girlfriend” (co-written by David Kafinetti of Rare Bird), finds The Tyrant Michael waxing introspective about a love gone wrong; but before things get too dismal, AbbeAbbe takes the high road to spiritual salvation in the trance-like “Angels Remember.”
Scratching their Electro itch, TIT includes a true golden oldie from their first JDC vinyl EP from the 80s, the vintage new wave scratch track “Three People Nude Below the Waist” (featuring the Knights of the Turntables), which is followed by “The Theme from Tammy’s Revenge,” a mesmerizing trance disco opus featuring beats courtesy of noted House DJ, Miguel Plasencia.
Next, the Tyrants skewer Super Rich fashionistas in the title cut “High Class Trash,” and “Doubt & Pain Disco” finds AbbeAbbe innocently singing one of most hilarious songs ever about self-inflicted misery (and at 1:21, one of the shortest).
TIT’s Ping-Pong vocal interplay sets up a cheeky send-up of censorship on “Words Like That.” which sets up The Tyrant Michael's knockout vocal on “Almost Winter,” as heartfelt a love ballad as has ever been released.
If, by chance, you’re still puzzled by what all this musical shape-shifting means, The Tyrants tie it up neatly in “The Ballad of The Tyrants in Therapy,” a smooth bit of disco Klezmer that tells the mythical TIT saga from beginning to end.
TIT’s back pages? They formed after a chance meeting by Michael J and Abbe Kanter in an improv workshop. The Tyrants launched themselves in L.A. rock clubs with bizarre songs such as “In the Shadow of Hitler” and “The Communist Reggae.”
On various LA independent labels, T.I.T. released 12”s like “Too Tuff to Cry,” “P-p-power of Love,” “Paint It Pink,” and “Crazy Dreams,” and solidified their following among club audiences throughout the U.S.
The 90s found The Tyrants at another plateau when records like “Big Pink House” and the hip-hop novelty single “Boy” were greeted with airplay on pop and urban crossover radio.
Their first full-length cd, “Meet The Tyrants in Therapy,” got great reviews, radio and TV exposure, but that wasn’t nearly enough for Tyrants in Therapy.
So in 2005, they set their sites on a new release, which turned out to be 5 years in the making.
Recorded at the Tyrants’ Atollsonique facility and around Los Angeles, the Tyrants enlisted some serious session talent including guitarist Bobby Robles (Thee Midniters), vocalist Duncan Faure (Rabbit, Bay City Rollers), vocalist /guitarist Marc Mann (Oingo Boingo, ELO)
Also lending a hand were drummer Kevin Jarvis (John Wesley Harding, The Records), bassist Louie Ruiz (The John Corbett Band), keyboardist David Kafinetti (Rare Bird and Spinal Tap), writer/producer Pascal Languirand (Trans X), and guitarist Duane Jarvis (Divynls, Frank Black, Lucinda Williams).
The Tyrant Michael produced most of the tracks, aided by the talented arranger/pianist Daniel Walker (Giorgio Moroder, The Captain & Tennille).
Bryan Zee, whose credits include Tindersticks, Luna, and The Velvet Goldmine, mixed most of the record at Zee Tronics in Hollywood.
Tyrannically Biograhical: The Tyrant Michael was born in Detroit, grew up in California, and attended university there. He wrote both advertising and journalism before surrendering to music as a career.
AbbeAbbe, a native of L.A., studied drama at Antioch College and A.C.T., then acted on stage, in movies and TV. She also taught her own acting workshops before succumbing to the more creative lure of the recording industry.