“This is a declaration of independence,” Duncan Barrett whoops, with audible glee, near the start of this U.K. guitar-pop group’s superbly crafted debut album. It’s a mission statement for Isle of Dogs, which plays like a Lord of the Flies where all the kids are bespectacled vegans and therefore nobody wants to kill the pig. Though one of them is getting into leather, so naturally everything turns into a big, colorful, nervous-energy dance party. Like early Los Campesinos! records, Tigercats’ songs foreground their warts and awkwardness as a way of conquering them, if only for a Saturday night.
The five-piece’s devoted music fandom spills over into its song titles, from one-hit-wonders ode “Vapours” to Pavement-rangey “Kim & Thurston.” But the most immediate tracks here bypass clever references for bouncy Orange Juice-style dance-pop, with boy-girl vocals, bustling percussion and an endearing sense of wonder. “We’re gonna get bigger than the national debt,” Barrett yelps, like fellow Hefner fanatics Art Brut vowing to “write a song as universal as happy birthday,” on second-to-last track “Banned at the Troxy.” They won’t, of course — that refusal to compromise is part of their appeal — but keyboardist Laura’s lead vocal turn on finale “Jonny” is a fittingly sweet consolation. Along with recent tourmates Allo Darlin’, Tigercats are continuing to find a place for heart-on-sleeve indie pop that defies shifting fashions.