September 14, 1999
Misery Guts/Cultural Industry
Soundtrack, Show Tunes, Experimental Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Cast Recordings

Album Review

The Tiger Lillies' Shockheaded Peter is the soundtrack to the critically-acclaimed stage production based on the 1850s book "Struwwelpeter, " a collection of macabre cautionary tales written by Heinrich Hoffmann, a psychiatrist frustrated with the era's boring children's stories. Similar to Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies, in "Struwwelpeter" rude, disobedient, and dirty children meet gruesome ends. The stage production uses toys, puppets, and a carnival barker to reinforce the Tiger Lillies' nightmarish, humorous adaptation of Hoffmann's fables, but the album doesn't need props to achieve the same creepy, cabaret-punk effect. Though a cabaret album about ill-fated children could be monotonous, Shockheaded Peter creates many sounds and moods from a limited palette. Singer Martyn Jacques' androgynous, cockney falsetto, and wheezing, sighing accordion add another level of surreality to vignettes like "Fidgety Phil," the tale of a boy impaled by cutlery when he pulls off the tablecloth at dinnertime. The manic oompah of "Bully Boys," about a trio of kids who meet their end after annoying the neighborhood giant, provides a nice foil to the sprightly waltz "Snip Snip (Suck-A-Thumb)," which involves a thumb-sucking boy, an evil tailor, and long, sharp scissors. "Johnny Head-In-Air" gives the story of a fatally absent-minded boy a slinky, jazzy backdrop, while "Flying Robert" (carried off with his umbrella in a gust of wind) has a soulful, elegiac sound. Judiciously used sound effects, like the howling cats on "The Dreadful Story About Harriet and the Matches," and the cracking whip on "The Story of Cruel Frederick," complete the album's theatrical atmosphere. Jacques' lyrics also deserve praise; even without music, couplets like "Snip! Snip! The scissors go/And Conrad cries out, 'Oh!'" and "Those silly bully boys/They've lost more than their toys" retain their pitch-black humor. A singularly creative album, Shockheaded Peter may not appeal to everyone, but its violent, vibrant, kiddie horror stories showcase the Tiger Lillies' distinctive talents.
Heather Phares, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. The Struwwelpeter Oveture
  2. The Story of Cruel Frederick
  3. The Dreadful Story About Harriet and the Matches
  4. Bully Boys
  5. The Story of the Man That Went Out Shooting
  6. Snip Snip
  7. Augustus and the Soup
  8. Fidgety Phil
  9. Johnny Head-In-Air
  10. Flying Robert
  11. Shockheaded Peter
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