Sunday, 15 December 2013


This is the third review in our series on the fabulous lineup of Falls Festival this summer. Another one of the fantastic acts set to perform is THE CAT EMPIRE.

I like cats. They don’t really do much unless you count humping your table lamp at 10:30 in the evening as productive,  but humans aren’t that much more advanced in the first place so we’ll try and keep it simple here. They make you happy, and Melbourne natives The Cat Empire is finally living up to their name and making me happy as well. While I can’t speak strongly of their previous releases, their 2013 Steal the Light hits you with that sexy modern ska/hipster trumpet combination that I feel they've near perfected.

            A brief recap of The Cat Empire: they're not bad. While I never found myself melting in their music they’re one of the few bands I’ve heard that understands the balance requisite in success. All they really needed was a reason to stay stuck in my head, because a lot things aren't really balanced up there, but at least what’s up there is musical. Steal the Light, however, brought with it exactly what I wanted to hear – their classically sexy instrumental blend but with a cowhide confidence and energy that was just out of reach for them before. Their 12 track release brought with it a lot of different emotions we haven't heard from them; outside the normal range of garrulously kitschy love songs, their album experiments with its emotions, and along with those its instrumentation. Say goodbye to monotonous horn section and half-hearted drumbeats, The Cat Empire is finally tapping into its own chutzpah.

            What really pulls this album together is the lead vocalists. I’m not going to be the first to say that today’s singers never give me that teenage angst inherent with songwriting; I and my fellow writers would much rather live in the time set of David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix. But finally does our cheery and lighthearted Felix Riebl and Harry James Angus reveal just a little bit of restlessness in their smooth-as-silk vocals. Listen closely and most of their songs are sticking to their guns but adding a little heat to the bullet as well, there’s definitely a little pathos to the intrinsic happiness with ska. And The Cat Empire is happy, they exude effervescence and the heartfelt balminess of Australian summers is seeping through the headsets and microphones in their latest album. But the lead singers have really perfected themselves here, there’s a lot more control that I like and while they’ve always been fluent in their songwriting their ability to balance the emotions they achieve in this new line-up deserves a hearty herald.
            Other points of focus with their new album is their lyrics, which along with the instrumentation is sounding a lot more eclectic. Their sound seems a tad influenced by the likes of Vampire weekend but their lyrics are predominantly Young the Giant meets Radiohead with the funky love song they’ve been working on for over a decade. And it’s a synergy I really enjoy listening to. If anything to spot out with them I guess I’m still somewhat put off by their inability to give us a full range of talent – you’re balanced, I’ve said this over and over again and it means that everything is remarkably cohesive and it sounds euphonic. As ironic as it sounds that doesn’t mean it is, and I love that they can work together a variety of different elements into their songs and still be the upbeat ear molesters they’re becoming, but what’s off-kilter? It isn’t that they’re un-human but there’s no imperfection that makes it sound human, there’s an edge to what they’re doing now but what about them really jumps out to your listening caves and says “I feel this bitch?” They’re not just a tepid love song anymore, but I’m waiting for the next big move. Nonetheless, their album deserves a listen to and I guarantee getting them stuck in your head will make you poop rainbow.

And they have painted eyebands.

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