Words & Image by Aaron Parsons
The trumpets soar again! I have literally grown up with The Cat Empire, first hearing their music in 2004, which meant I was a mere sixteen year old with only vanilla notes gracing my musical palate. Then this Australian band came along who claimed to be a bit of everything (if you can track down their Extreme Merch videos on YouTube you will see what I mean) and suddenly there was salsa, spice and zest. I was introduced to The Cat Empire with the song ‘Beanni’; a strange, crazy song that is more likely to have a marmite rather than salsa effect, but I was hooked nonetheless.
More than a decade on and The Cat Empire have released their sixth studio album ‘Rising With The Sun’. It’s easy to be full of cliché when writing something about this band and that’s probably due to their obvious positivity, eclectic sounds and light hearted personas which can easily be interpreted as cheesy. Thank God some people still look at life with a smile on their face and energy in the gut, that’s all I can say.
Growing up with this band in many respects has made it easy to see how, even if subtle, their music has changed and somewhat grown up too. That’s not to say they aren’t full of fun, laughter and monkey shuffles today, but simply put, are more refined and structured. Their latest creation bears resemblances to past sounds with songs like ‘Que Sera Ahora’ which sounds as though it was made right off the back of their 2005 ‘Two Shoes’ album and, whilst talking of ‘Two Shoes’, the single ‘You Are My Song’ echoes Harry Angus old harmony classic. There are more serious tones in this album than before with powerful and emotive songs like ‘Bataclan’ that dedicates itself to the victims of the Paris attacks last year. There is still plenty of familiarity throughout with the undertone of summer fun a predominant feature.
‘Que Sera Ahora’ itself deserves special mention alone for it’s well constructed, effortlessly flowing melody, which would make it into my Cat Empire top ten. It has such quintessential Empire sounds and I think this song alone captures an essence of the band like no other on this album. It’s the combination of the whole band firing on equal greatness that makes it stand out for me.
The same question always springs to mind though. How can there be such diversity in the band and yet it works so well? Like spaghetti and meatball, cheese and pineapple and rum and ginger ale, front men Felix Riebl and Harry Angus combine to create such a well-rounded invention. In my head it seems as though Felix and Harry go off on their own little paths when writing songs and some how bring it all back and make it make sense.
They appear to be in their own worlds and are so different yet one without the other and it probably wouldn’t work. They are the perfect blend and where Harry brings edge and a bit of the weird and wonderful, Felix brings you back down to Earth not with a bump but some mellow soothing tunes. Both ooze passion, but you must see them perform live to really get that.
It’s very easy as with any band to focus on the front men but ‘Rising With The Sun’ forces you not too. The horns section are ridiculously tight throughout and deserve to be played louder than any system I can lay my hands on. One of my personal highlights is during the vivacious ‘Daggers Drawn’ and the mini freestyle that let’s rip, the kind of freestyle that is now accustomed to most Cat Empire performances and albums is just awesome. Led by the horns, DJ Jumps goes wild on the decks, whilst Ryan Munro churns out some devilry baseline that is egged on by Ollie McGill’s iconic keys and Will Hull Brown’s pulsating jazzy drum rhythm.
It’s hard not to compare new albums with old and whilst this might not be everything that makes the band what it is, it definitely is The Cat Empire. I wouldn’t introduce someone to ‘Rising With The Sun’ if I wanted to introduce them to The Cat Empire but that is probably stating the obvious as if I was it would be with a concert ticket in my hand not a CD. Anyway, music is about catalogues and what you can do with creativity over a long period of time and it is pretty amazing these guys are still bringing new sounds and old sounds together in unique ways. I mean what would the world be like without The Cat Empire! The new album has everything you would hope for and a bit more.