Cats & Cats & Cats - Motherwhale - CD (2011)

Labels: Function
Review by: Michael McCann

About halfway into the second track of Motherwhale, I’m imagining a paedophile sitting inside of a tea cup. That is what Cats & Cats & Cats are. On the surface, a painfully romantic band at times, at times groin grabbingly sentimental, but indeed, none the less interesting for it. They’ve been around for a while now, since 2005, according to this press release thing, and they seem to be quite popular with the kids. One could even describe them as a pop band, but I think they’re a bit more wiry than that. WIRY like a CAT! So anyway, this paedophile, he’s sitting in this cup, rotating.

It’s surprising when something atonal or angular happens, especially if you’ve never heard any of Cats X3’s music before. It’s unexpected and makes them somewhat intriguing for the ears. When what you have is predominantly a melodious band with lots of highfalutin choruses and sing-alongs, perhaps too many, it really is something else when it can subvert those pesky preconceptions that you have there, yo! However, initially on Motherwhale there seems to be less of these moments, a little less edge (compared to past work) and conversely, as aforementioned, more an abundance of these epic-romantic-tavern sections. It’s a push and pull of styles which is possibly either going to turn people on or off. An amalgam which is tricky to get right for disparate audiences – It’s that which makes them somewhat challenging and interesting. They do a very good job of getting the balance here though, if sometimes I feel it’s attempting to be a bit more ‘palatable’ towards a more mass audience. Others might describe it as being mature, but not me! Fuck maturity!

Speaking of maturity, he is typical by appearances – beard, thick rimmed glasses, soft, moisturised palms. With him a small girl is holding an ice cream, there’s the faint look of worry and uncertainty about her. She looks up into his eyes and he raises his arms, just enough so that you can make out the shit leather patches adorning the elbows of his shit tweed jacket. And the future flits by. By For the Love of Mechanical Bears they’re using a swing set for it’s designated purpose. She is quite a bit more at ease, even enjoying the company of the sage old fool.

Yet Motherwhale is not without it’s more spastic moments. On O’ Science there’s a’ coughing and a’ wooping; warbling violins open the song Celebration; there’s an odd chord on one of the other songs I can’t remember the title of; the broken break before and bit of interplay after the chorus on The Seaweed Brothers, which is killer by the way; the ‘ha ha has’; the back-and-forth guitars and ever so slightly detached vocals on Zoomercroom. These moments stand out. And I find Benjamin George’s vocals incredibly charming also. They are somewhat coarse, asperous and off kilter, charming to the max! I’m also a fan of the additional value female vocalist on this album (I think they belong to Ben’s sister) and the back and forth they have on a couple of songs. I did hear some double tracked vocals, which I wasn’t keen on.

Eventually she comes around to trusting the old man, even loving him, their shared experience had become one. But all the ice creams, all the playgrounds, the tea cups, all the high speed boat chases and various other romantic scenarios appear distant now as the old man is carted into the back of a police van – for crimes against humanity. Sullenly he slunks down as the doors slam shut, and the girl, a tear runs down her cheek as she bares witness to it all. The future flits by.

Without a doubt a lot is going on on this album and the songwriting here is second to none. Not to mention the instrumentation is absolutely lush. I heard organs, banjos, xylophones, violins, brass, what sounded like a theremin and yes! even slide guitar on the final track. Awaiting trial, the man ties a makeshift noose out of his bedsheets and prepares for the end. The end as it occurs is a lovely triplet/build up towards climax. Despite my reservations that it’s not quite as surprising as If I’d had An Atlas, it is a more focus’ed and cohesive album. Some of it is damned catch-catchy-pat-cash too, I’ve found myself humming “what’s with all the sadness” inside my head over and over during mundane daily routines. I can’t for the life of me think what the violins on Olympus Mons remind me of also! I think it might be something off the Shenmue soundtrack. It’s hard to deny the amount of accomplishment and thought that’s gone into these songs. You will most definitely approve. That is, if you can handle the sickly tavern hangover loveliness.