There’s days when the cognitive dissonance between “fanboy” and “critic” exacerbate the already bloody conflict in the head of a humble servant. Today feels like both sides are out with all guns a-blazin’, as the newest EP by Cats:For:Peru puts me in the difficult position: should I be honest or should I be empathic?
Tender Branson is a difficult EP to listen to. Not because it’s badly recorded (kudos to Mr. Dave Sanderson and his 2Fly magic – spotless), but because the ever shifting machine that is Cats:For:Peru has crossed that bridge, the one the staunchest fans will always claim “betrays” all ideals and signature sounds. No sophomore slump here, more like a kamikaze dive into the hearts of the sturdiest fans.
Succinctly put: this isn’t music, it’s a happening. Opening track ‘It was a bungalow, actually’ is the stark lament by keyboardist Stella Wright, which sort of pays homage/makes fun of ‘Open house’, from their previous EP, We had this problem last Winter. After her sweet vocalising fades, a jarring barrage of heavily distorted chords (think their track ‘I am the O’ – but heavier) overburdens the hearing canals of the listener, seguing into the tribal-infused ‘Hank the Sarnie (mvt. 2)’. This is where it gets tricky. Whereas ‘Slight to the Right’ (from Attack of the Pitching Machine) harked to unity, ‘Hank the Sarnie (mvt. 2)’ feels like 6th form politics seducing a wobbly Casio synth. I’m pretty sure the real star of this track is bass player-in-exile Keith Jones and his funk-heavy riffs.
Even if it’s an EP, there are a couple of really short tracks that feel more like segues (or rap skits). ‘We had this problem last summer’ is 90 seconds of bleeps, blops and cables being plugged in and out. ‘Slight to the left’ is a call-and-response between a car’s direction lights’ relay sample (manipulated by guest DJ Spook Muziek) and a very math rock drum solo by Lucy Williamson. ‘Rich is late to practice’ is very Tenacious D-like conversation between Ad Follet and Keith Jones. There’s a couple of notes being played in the distance, but it’s not too distracting.
Yes, it sounds like I’m having trouble with Tender Branson. Did some research and it’s the protagonists of Chuck Palahniuk‘s Survivor, an acid dark comedy about the Messiah-light leader of a cult. It’s a good read and even if some references are made in the lyrics (‘Fricasse Olé!’ includes “There’s always the chance you could die right in the middle of your life story” whispered a few times during the synth solo). The stomp-and-clapping track ‘Ode to Trevor Hollis’ narrates the life and times of said doomed character (not a big spoiler, don’t worry – read the book).
The running time of the last song, ‘Mixtape #39 (Sharrowvale and Nepal)’ is almost 15 minutes. I once overheard a conversation between guitarist Richard Walton and Ad Follet regarding duration of tracks, and it seems this one is the final word on the argument. Who won, I do not know. What I know is that the guitar solos are impressive (nice use of a Kaoss pad) and although it might be a tiresome task for people wanting sweet and short tracks, this is probably the more Cats:For:Peru-sey track here. I’m intrigued at the ending, with all band members singing in a choir-like manner the words “fraus dolus” over and over again, while a simple (but effective) electronic beat slow drowns their voices in an overbearing sound.
It’s a shame that the dubstep/dancevibe branch that Cats:For:Peru hung on on their new album proved to be their gallows. Either they continue on this path, alienating all their fans (and sowing and reaping some new ones – hopefully) or we just shrug and try and decipher what they were trying to do. #Pray4Cats:For:Peru.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López