Miniature Tigers may hail from the landlocked sprawl of southern Arizona, but the band's music sets its sights on California, a more appropriate setting for the sun-baked pop songs that comprise this debut. With its ruminations on life, love, and the TV show Lost, Tell It to the Volcano is a delightfully rare record, one that employs power pop songcraft and lyrical snark in equal measures. Frontman Charlie Brand maintains a straight face throughout, whether he's rhyming "Merry Christmas" with "Hare Krishnas" or finding ways to couch his broken heart in a cheery, whimsical context. Accordingly, "Cannibal Queen" likens heartbreak to a desert island experience, with thick harmonies and an "Edge of Seventeen"-styled guitar riff underscoring Brand's melodies, while the title track features the sort of tropical, Caucasian doo wop made popular by the Tokens. Elsewhere, "Tchaikovsky & Solitude" flirts with glockenspiels and Wall of Sound crescendos before shrinking back into a rainy-day ballad, while the rest of the songs -- all but three of which unveil their hooks and conclude before the three-minute mark -- demonstrate a wry, tuneful, and pleasantly sparse approach to pop music. It all sounds slightly homespun, as Brand's preference for acoustic guitar and keyboard counterparts does little to beef up the overall sound. Such simplicity is part of Tell It to the Volcano's charm, however, and Miniature Tigers succeed by not approximating the slickly produced sounds of Fountains of Wayne, Rooney, and other concurrent power pop groups. Instead, they specialize in stripped-down hooks and youthful California dreaming, resulting in the sort of effortless material that's fitting for beachside bonfires despite its poignant content.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey