Dan Reed and Danny Vaughn were talking the other night about being given, and listening to, other people’s music and both said they found this very difficult, both for differing reasons:
Dan said he worried about them writing something better than he ever had and finding it hard having to admit that.
Danny said he pretty much dreaded it, just in case it was really bad, and he had to be honest and tell them.
He adding: “What do you say? Hey, nice cover guys?”
Having been given the new CD from Space Cats to listen to, (and with them even having a name like Space Cats) I was both curious, and admittedly a bit dubious, as to what the Cats had to offer.
Trying not to think of The Aristocats Cats, The Stray Cats or Josie and the Pussycats (From Outer Space), I put the headphones on and paid careful attention to the first track, called Arrival.
Immediately, I heard that unmistakable and very atmospheric background ambiance that comes from having just been beamed down to a windswept desolate class M planet surface.
Whilst listening to the high pitched distant radio signals, I felt myself hoping the following tracks were not akin to the sacrificial guy in the landing party who always gets to wear a red shirt.
Mixed in with various space themes and background chatter, you could just make out some questions and answers;
Position? – Captain.
Rank? – Starship Command.
And with that, we were told that we had indeed landed.
As I sat listening to the first few seconds of the opening song in England’s May sunshine, I browsed down the track list.
With tracks entitled “Too Many Gods” and “The Greatest Story Never Told”, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was going to have that kind of Stryper style underlying Religious message.
However, with lyrics like: “… pray on the weak and leave them paralyzed – your promises so paper thin, we found you out, we’re all giving in…”, and seeing that card gaming picture of the boys on the promo pic looking more like “Tabla Del Diablo” …that notion was quickly put to rest.
The opening track with those first three power chords, swirling keyboards and the welcoming shout out, “Hello!” tells you how the album is going to be – catchy, punchy – a big production and very professional.
Immediately, the superb three and four part harmonies hit you like a large male choir, grabbing your attention. These give a huge backing sound to the main vocals which are in themselves, strong enough to carry any song alone, you can’t help but feel there is this huge 70′s feel and influence going on in this extraordinarily eclectic production.
Stop, with its nice walking / driving bass line, gives this track a rock steady, slightly boogie feel, which mixes well with its moodier – “Stop, take a look around you” – lyrics.
Last Man Standing takes you instantly to 1974 and if that was what Space Cats wanted to do here, they succeeded and nailed that classic sound and style perfectly. Every band and its musicians have a vast variety of influences and the moment I played this, certain pieces felt like how The Beatles would sound if they covered sections of March of the Black Queen from Queen II, as the production and engineering on the vocals and harmonies are second to none and make this very addictive listening.
Goodbye to Mr. Heartache, with its lyrics, I guess is supposed to be a sad song but somehow that chorus still manages to have you singing along in a kind of joyous relief in saying, “Say goodbye to Mr. Heartache”.
Have you ever been in a classic American road side bar and the band playing caught your attention and you thought, “this song is just so all time American”. The song Unfinished Symphony just summed up that feeling, and would not be out of place from the Dylan lead soundtrack, Hearts of Fire.
Schoolyard Fantasy is a nice little reminiscent jingle, while The Greatest Story Never Told is the bands main mini epic offering, and probably the biggest sounding and the longest track on the CD. I would not even dare compare it to the monumental Ghost Love Score but it does have a very similar build, style and orchestral section, to which I’m sure Tuomas himself would give a cheeky knowing little wink.
It’s not hard to see why Only in Vegas, just released this month, is the Cats new single and video, with its hook filled chorus and happy go lucky radio hit feel. Already likened by many to ELO and Queen, I have to add that they are not just on par with Queen’s famous harmonies but rather than ELO as a major influence, for me I hear many elements of STYX’s Dennis DeYoung, James Young and Tommy Shaw and half way through the CD, these cats were already rockin’ more than the Paradise.
Summer is coming guys and this CD needs to be in your car for those driving days, with the windows or top down and, like all great music, this has to be played loud…
Man in the Moon is the bands Ballard contribution to the set and compliments the sound and style of the whole CD nicely.
Five Minute Celebrity… is a rabble rousing, feet tapping anthem and like many of their songs will have you singing along to the words before the second chorus comes around – it’s like you’ve known these songs for years.
To end the CD on a short, second Ballard, I felt was a little unusual for such a hugely powerful sing-along production, but I guess the words of Velvet Horizon, like Delain’s Scarlet, were kind of fitting in drawing the journey you’d just been on to an end…
“…till the curtains close again.”
Too many Gods could easily be regarded as a power pop tribute to an era long past, but even with its much updated feel and sound, it still leaves you where the Cats want you to be – with the feeling you haven’t quite left the 70′s and are loving this huge musical trip. Just to call the songs “catchy tunes” is far too much of a clichéd understatement; these Cats have great arrangements throughout every track, musically and lyrically, and even though it does have a strong 70′s vibe, the words and lyrics are very modern, and, in some songs like Stop, they are very timely too.
I have been playing this CD for two weeks now and from the first play, and hearing that title track with its superbly crafted hooks and musicianship, written with feeling and purpose, I knew it instantly fitted like a glove into my music collection and will be something I will play often.
If ever there was a paradoxical clash of retro versus modern, something that is so unique / yet works in so many different ways, this album would be it.
This is easily one of those CD’s where some of the tracks could be a hit single, and be regularly played on both Rock Radio and Chart Pop.
Would I buy this CD? A big “YES”… Would I pay to go and see the Cats? Definitely.
They are on tour in the UK this September, so go see them and see, and hear something very special.
Well, the Cats are here and the Cats are not just cool.. but super cool.
And would Mr. Reed and Mr. Vaughn like this ?
Too right they would.
Words by Dixie
02. Too Many Gods
04. Last Man Standing
05. Mr. Heartache
06. Unfinished Symphony
07. Schoolyard Fantasy
08. The Greatest Story Never Told
09. Only In Vegas
10. Man In The Moon
11. Five Minute Celebrity
12. Velvet Horizon