After nine months sequestered in the studio UK classic rockers Cats in Space emerge with a new record and a new lead singer, and what a record, and what a singer! Damien Edwards is a star of musical theatre. He recently played Parson Nathaniel in the stage version of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ and took the title role in Bill (‘I own Everton FC’) Kenwright’s production of The Roy Orbison Story. This sort of pedigree is unusual in a rock band and the difference is clear from the first note and virtually the first note I made, when listening to this album, was, “amazing vocals!!”.
So, to the record itself. The 70’s rock template that Cats have made their own, has been expanded here to embrace some of the more prog aspects of that era’s music. I noticed some interesting use of sound effects and synthesiser on a few tracks, including ‘Dive’, ’Space Ship Superstar’ and ‘Marionettes’. The first two of which are the opening two tracks on the album and segue nicely before developing into a jaunty rocker with – and this becomes commonplace on this album – a chorus with a massive hook. It goes without saying that the vocal is brilliant, but however brilliant a vocal may be, it is nothing without a quality song, and this is a quality song, make no mistake.
‘Revolution’ is a choppy rocker, and this revolution sounds like a party. Loads of melody and power where required, and of course there is another massive hook. ‘Sunday Best’ comes across like a mash-up between the Kinks and Slade, (though without the Noddy Holder vocal sound I must add quickly!). I have written “bouncy is the only word” in my notes – this is short, under three minutes, but a very sweet piece of music.
Lots of bands try to write songs which will garner radio airplay, even on the latest Rammstein album the second track was called, simply, radio. Cats are even more up front, here, with ‘Listen to The Radio’. I just wonder how many rock DJs will be opening their shows with this track, (I know of one at least!). Almost pop-rock in its jauntiness but made exceptional by some stunning guitar work and a great sing-a-long chorus. To quote a catchphrase from a pop show in the dim and distant past (to be spoken in the broadest Brummie accent you can imagine, by the way) “I’d buy it and give it five”. Older readers will understand.
There is a single release from the album, ‘ I Fell Out Of Love With Rock and Roll’ which has one of the best lyrics I have heard in ages “No-one’s taking heroin or throwing TVs down the hall, that’s why I fell out with rock and roll”, as I said, you need good songs, but this band write great songs. This track is almost a power ballad and really gets under the skin in the best way possible.
‘Marionettes’ follows and ups the pace a little before kicking in an interesting time change and taking off. This is a cracker of a track and played by a band rapidly proving themselves to be one of the best I’ve heard this year. Having said that, they decide to mess with my head by turning, albeit briefly, into a pomp-rock band to rival the masters, by whom I mean Styx. ’Queen of the Neverland’ is full of vocal harmonies, wonderful melody and intricate guitars, including a superb solo which is the cherry on this particular cake.
I love the way the band stays true to its ‘70’s rock template but manages to ring the changes track by track. ‘Magic Lovin’ Feelin’ throws in a guitar sound which remined me of the great Bert Weedon, this could, and should be a singles chart hit! I know that might sound sacrilegious when writing about a rock band, but back in the day, and by that, I mean the ‘70s, the charts were full of rock music, this would have been in there without a shadow of a doubt.
Placed well in the track listing is a sweet, gentle acoustic ballad ‘Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow’ which gives the listener a breather before ‘Season’s Change’ arrives sounding like Manfred Mann’s Earth Band with Dennis de Young on vocals. The hook is massive and the instrumental middle pleases. The title track completes the album, beginning as a ballad with thoughtful and poignant lyrics “Is it real? Does it matter? Wish everything was how it used to be”, this could be an anthem for 2020. Moving up the gears, the guitars soar and, as the track hits top, it becomes truly epic and deserving of its status as the title track. This album is simply magnificent and certainly in the top three I have heard this year.
Atlantis is out now via Harmony Factory/Cargo Records