Cats and Cats and Cats/This Town Needs Guns: Split CD
Big Scary Monsters
Records from Cats and Cats and Cats have, so far, been disappointing, although only in the context of the band's brilliant, incendiary live shows. The technicals are all down pat - the band are just as tight on record as they are live, much as you would expect. The guitar dynamics are, if anything, more pronounced and more impressive on record – particularly on this new record – than they are in concert. All the elements are there, but somehow the energy doesn't come through as it should.
Post-rock bands generally fall into one of two categories: those with vocals and those without (into which category we'll place the ones like Sunn 0))), with shouty impossible-to-follow vocals). Having vocals that can actually be understood definitely puts Cats into the former box. But while Ben George's reedy, unsure vocals are endearing and give the band an indie tone that expands upon the post-rock backdrops, they serve to distract a little from the power of the instrumentation of the songs.
Opener 'Brilliant the Brilli Ant' is entertaining enough, if mismatched between its own faster and slower sections. 'Anchorage' is more coherent, with a touching melodica part over a simple piano figure seeing out the post-rock explosion of the beginning of the song. It segues right into the impressive 'Sweet Drunk Everyone', which builds from what you might mistake for a twee indie song into a Polyphonic Spree choral climax, and then ends abruptly. 'Tower Tower' is pleasant enough in the same way, but while it's bombastic, it doesn't quite make an impression. So, the new record is disappointing, but only if you've witness them live. If not, pick it up, it'll be a revelation. Then go to a Cats gig. It'll blow your mind.
This CD, split between Cats and This Town Needs Guns, is well-packaged, with double inlay cards, one carrying information on the bands and the other an idiosyncratic representation of the lyrics. This Town's lyrics are neatly typed over one side, while Cats' lyrics spider all over the other side of the card, accompanied by some nice doodles.
This Town Needs Guns make up the final four tracks of this eight-track mini album . First track '26 is Dancier than 4' mixes an emo vocal up with a couple of intricate guitar parts and some spot-on drumming to come out with something that's part post-rock, part pop, and not at all bad. Dan Adams sticks with the overwrought vocals for 'If I Sit Still Maybe I'll Get Out of Here' which has, if anything, an even catchier melody. If it weren't for the oddball time changes and off-kilter but accomplished drumming, this could almost be American-teen-drama backing music.
Let's get real, though: in real life, nothing like this could get anywhere near prime time TV. Its whole charm is that it's too weird, or rather that it's entirely normal sounding at first thought, but once you start to really listen, it reveals itself as something altogether more... well, strange. Again, there's a segue (what is this, a concept album?) into '1 4 7 0 man' which, if we're honest, treads the same ground, only slightly faster, as the opener. The final track, 'It's Not True Rufus, Don't Listen To The Hat' appears to be heading towards a similarly uninspiring conclusion, but rescues itself with a whirlwind of distorted guitars and a telephone-style spoken word vocal (and, incidentally, has one of the best song titles since the heyday of the late, lamented Mclusky).
The 40-minute record hangs together well – while the two bands really only share the 'post-rock' appellation and some superficial musical traits, they're both innovators in the British rock scene at the moment, and if you want to pick up a document of what's going on right now, before it really starts to happen, here wouldn't be a bad place to start.