Thursday, February 14, 2019
CATS IN SPACE - 'DAY TRIP TO NARNIA'
REVIEW BY: ALAN HOLLOWAY
I've been a bit of a slow learner when it comes to Cats In Space. Sure, I heard a couple of singles and liked them, but didn't search out the albums until a couple of months ago in preparation for seeing them at a festival. Well, I'm glad I did, as Cats In Space really are my sort of band. A delightful mix of Queen, E.L.O, Supertramp and Styx (at least), they fuse pop, rock, pomp and a barrel load of fun to great effect with the added bonus of gorgeous harmony vocals. the difficult second album hurdle was easily cleared with 'Scarecrow', but will 'Day Trip To Narnia' continue the winning streak? You bet your nine lives it will!
Album number three is split into two parts, what us old buggers used to call 'Side One' and 'Side Two' until these new fangled CD's and downloads came along and shat on our memories. As is the trend these days you can get a vinyl copy, but I've just had the CD version myself. The first part of the album is mainly dominated by songs about the music business, quite appropriate as between them the members of the band have apporximately 900 years of experience in the 'Biz'. The title track is set to a marching beat and compares being in a band and doigg your shit to visiting a fantasy land, whilst the exceptionally catchy 'Hologram Man' is suitably scathing about the money grabbing people who bring back dead singers as holgrams for a tour or two. 'Tragic Alter Ego' is about being stuck in a tribute band, endlessly churning out the same hits by a band you used to admire but are now sick to the back teeth of, and 'Silver & Gold' remenisces about the good old days of the 70s, when we were oh so glam, darlings. It's all very Queen in many ways, with a 'Killer Queen' guitar sound here, or the 'Yeahhhhh' from a''A Kind Of Magic' there, and even a chorus that goes 'You're a tragic alter ego- play the game'. Never a rip off, always a homage, these tracks all work beautifully.
Seperating the music biz themed tracks are a mixture of songs that may divide the audience a bit. 'She Talks Too Much' is a two minute whirlwind that is rushed out so quickly it's almost as if the band is a little embarrassed by what is a fun throwaway track about a woman who won't shut up but is really hot so, you know... 'She's been on the phone for seven hours, but you should see her when she gets out of the shower'. Make of that what you will. 'Chasing Diamonds' is sparse, haunting track that allows vocalist Paul Manzi to demonstrate that he's actually pretty damned good even without being surrounded by harmonies and crashing guitars, whilst 'Unicorn' is a good, melodic track that will have you singing along and nodding appreciateively at the big chords involved.
Side two, as it were, is given over to 'The Story Of Johnny Rocket', a six part story (plus a short intro piece) about a young man who wants to be an astronaut. He falls in love (at a disco) and promises to get married after he returns from the moon, but will he return? I first listened to this without reading the back story, and boy it was hard to work out what that story was, so I did the homework (which only took five minutes, really), and the lyrics of the tracks took on a new resonance. It starts off boisterously with 'Johnny Rocket' and the shamelessly disco track 'Thunder In The Night', but after this it all slows down a bit as the story unfolds, and whilst I like every track it would have been nice to finish with another big rocker. It's a sad story, really, but still has a happy ending.
'Day Trip To Narnia' is another excellent album from Cats In Space, with the first half throwing in all sorts of influences and some first class lyrics and the second half telling what is a really sweet story in a very poignant way. The band are tight as ever, with a great mix begging for a decent system or headphones to get the best effect. It's on par with the first two albums without copying what's gone before, and it's wonderful to hear a band that are willing to be creative and take a few risks to bring catchy, intelligent songs with a lot of heart. No wonder everybody wants to be a cat - cause being a cat is definitely where it's at.
Catch them on tour in the UK in MARCH