Emmett Kelly and his band The Cairo Gang are best-known as one of the more successful of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s recent foils. Tiny Rebels, however, sees Kelly strike out on his own path – in more ways than one.
Fans of their spare, subtle work on The Wonder Show Of The World, their full-length collaboration with BPB, might be surprised with this six-track mini-album, on which The Cairo Gang unleash their previously hidden ragged side. The initial impression is of discovering a long-lost, particularly late-night-and-loose Byrds demo tape. The dual 12-string guitars clang, vocals are often strained, and the entire thing often seems to be on the verge of collapse. Yet songs such as Take Your Time and Father Of The Man have an undeniable wide-eyed charm, even if they do err heavily on the side of a series of late 60s pastiches.
The most problematic moment comes when the tongue-in-cheek West Coast pop gives way to Shivers, a melodramatic power ballad in lo-fi clothing. The only weak moment on an otherwise enjoyable release, it sounds phoney, purposely strung-out, as if self-consciously aping Neil Young’s wracked-out Tonight’s The Night.