The album is described by Bob Stanley as "an album of modern folk songs done in twentieth century styles like techno and dub". "Like a Motorway", for example, blends Kraftwerk-style techno with the melody from the nineteenth century folk song "Silver Dagger". Some of the songs, such as "Marble Lions" and "Former Lover" forsake electronics for classical folk instrumentation and orchestral arrangements. One, "Western Wind", is a traditional English folk song.
Tiger Bay was released in the UK in June 1994. The original cover art is James Clarke Hook's "Welcome Bonny Boat", doctored to include the band members.
The American edition of the album replaced the UK cover art with a photograph of the band smartly dressed at a table. It does not include the "Western Wind"/"Tankerville" suite. In place of the cut songs is the single "I Was Born On Christmas Day" and remixes by Daniel Abraham of "Hug My Soul" and "Like a Motorway".
Tiger Bay was reissued in 1996 by Creation Records, in part because of Saint Etienne's absence from the music scene, but also because of their formal move to Creation Records. The reissue featured another new cover, this time showing Giuditta Del Vecchio (from the film Léolo); the back shows a picture of the group. The inner sleeve was updated, and includes a short commentary on the album by journalist and friend of the group Simon Price, as well as a new selection of photographs with a summery theme. The album itself features a slightly shuffled track listing. "Marble Lions" is moved to appear after "Pale Movie". The second occurrence of "Western Wind" is removed completely; instead "Tankerville" fades into "Boy Scouts of America". "Former Lover" is also edited, although less noticeably, with only the opening guitar chords being removed. The reissue also features four extra tracks – "I Buy American Records", "Grovely Road", "Hate your Drug" and the single edit of "He's on the Phone".
In 2010 the album was re-released once more. The new deluxe version reinstates the original sleeve art and includes a booklet with an interview with Bob Stanley and additional bonus disc containing a number of demos and all of the b-sides.
The British release of Tiger Bay was commercially successful and reached #8 on the UK Album Chart. Three singles were released, but none matched the popularity of those from their previous album. The first, "Pale Movie", peaked at #28. "Like a Motorway" was more disappointing, missing the top forty completely and making only #47. "Hug My Soul" was released as a two-disc set and managed better, peaking at #32.
"Hug My Soul" was the only single that charted in the US and reached No. 40 on the BillboardHot Dance Club Play chart.
In a 2009 interview, Bob Stanley said that in retrospect the band should have included some more obvious singles on Tiger Bay, to be commercial: "it definitely could have done with a couple more obvious songs". He also acknowledged that the original cover was a commercial mistake.