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Cats in Space - Scarecrow (Album Review)

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Cats In Space Facebook

On a mission to resurrect the classic rock stylings of ELO, Queen, Boston and numerous golden oldie acts, Cats in Space craft the kind of tunes ‘70s and ‘80s kids will adore, ‘90s kids will despise and noughties kids will ignore. Now, if you think that sounds like a group who are shamelessly indulging their childhood fantasies, you’re not wide of the mark. But if you also believe the results will offer little more than a third rate pastiche, prepare for a wonderful surprise.

Released in 2015, a month before ELO’s comeback effort ‘Alone in the Universe’, ‘Too Many Gods’ was an impressive debut that delivered all the vintage thrills and spills Jeff Lynne’s record was lacking. Made by a group of 50 something musicians who’d been kicking around the industry for years with varying degrees of success, it proved what a pure and powerful form of expression music can be when made without a care for either current trends or commercial success.

Inspired by the response that bow received, ‘Scarecrow’ is an incredibly confident follow up that offers more of the same, only bigger and better.

Where its predecessor was written before the band’s line-up was finalised, and ping ponged around the ‘70s musical map with a charming abandon, this is a fully-fledged group effort where everyone involved has raised their game to produce a more focused record packed with high calibre songwriting.  

Whether it’s the sumptuously cool rock ‘n’ roll groove of Clown in Your Nightmare – laced with Alice Cooper spookiness, Peter Frampton talk box and a swaggering hook - Timebomb’s stadium anthemics or quirky satirical bite of Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, which mocks the narcissism of social media, the craftsmanship here is staggering.   

It’s rare to hear a contemporary album as melodically vintage as ‘Scarecrow’, something that’s largely down to stacked multi-part harmonies. Both the Beach Boys power-pop of Felix and the Golden Sun and AOR perkiness of Two Fifty Nine, a cheeky meta sideswipe about the song’s radio friendly traits, find a flock of increasingly high-pitched voices soaring all over the sonic skyline.

The band’s influences are obvious but the concept works because they aren’t hiding their intentions. They execute with enough authenticity and character to make Cats in Space a valid outfit in their own right. In fact, if you were to place Jupiter Calling’s batty progressive voyage to the stars, the gorgeously wounded Scars or picturesque nostalgia of September Rain on any album by the group’s idols, they’d more than hold their own.

That’s particularly true of Broken Wing, a grandiose epic that sounds like it was somehow omitted from ‘Queen II’ for being overly bombastic. With a rhythm guitar tone that’s identical to Brian May’s and solo snatches from Bohemian Rhapsody and Van Halen’s Runnin’ With The Devil, it encapsulates this group’s ability to create homages that knowingly tip their hat while standing proudly on their own two feet.    

It was a tad ridiculous when, last year, Cats guitarist Greg Hart stated that “music went wrong in ‘82” and never recovered, but what he and his feline friends have done with their convictions is very right indeed. You can almost picture Freddie Mercury raising a glass of the finest champagne after hearing this exceptional throwback record.

Cats In Space Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue September 12 2017 - CARDIFF Globe
Wed September 13 2017 - LONDON Borderline
Fri September 15 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Sat September 16 2017 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Sun September 17 2017 - BRISTOL THE FLEECE
Tue September 19 2017 - BRIGHTON Haunt
Mon September 25 2017 - GLASGOW G2
Tue September 26 2017 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy 3
Wed September 27 2017 - LONDON Borderline

Click here to compare & buy Cats In Space Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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