CATS IN SPACE
As a self-professed ailurophile, I'd been intrigued for some time about this band, simply due to the fact "Cats" is in their moniker. I'm obviously easily pleased. Or just a sucker for anything vaguely cat related. They released studio albums in 2015 and 2017, although it wasn't until their 2018 live album, 'Cats Alive!', turned up for review that I first sampled their delights. And what a fantastic surprise it transpired to be, with an incessant contiguity of 70s inspired anthems, loaded with memorable, melodically infectious instrumentations; vocal lines; refrains; and top-notch musicianship. 2019 sees their evident prolificacy extended to a third full-length studio offering, in the form of 'Day Trip to Narnia', and, based on my previous experience, I was as ravenous and salivating as a cat at feeding time to get my ears around what I hoped to be another sonically nourishing platter. And in no small way was I disappointed.
Sonically steeped in the classic rock 70s aesthetic for which I gather they've become renowned, Cats in Space are indubitably anachronistic... but it's anachronism within which to revel and savour. Pastiched 70s classic rock idioms don't get any better than this. 'Day Trip to Narnia' is chock-full of 'em, and it's probably the most authentic sounding homage to said era that I've ever heard. So much so, you could be forgiven for believing this to be some sort of "lost" 70s gem from a band you've never heard of.
While the music harks back to bygone decade, lyrics are very much of the here and now. Some lament the "good old days" from a contemporary standpoint ('Silver and Gold'), while others comment on the superficiality of rock star fame ('Narnia'), with a few scathing attacks thrown into the mix, such as their axiomatic dislike of touring holograms ('Hologram Man'). I'm with them on the latter; every single word in this candidly penned lyric rings true. I'm guessing the Cats won't be off to see Ronnie James "perform" at their local venue any time soon!
Musically, they succeed in channelling a whole load of 70s sounds, from the likes of Queen, Bowie, ELO, Sweet, et al... yet, ultimately, they sound like Cats in Space. This is so much more than mere mimicry. This bunch of talented folk have crafted an album full of gems. Zero filler. And Paul Manzi's vocals are incredible... so emotionally expressive; so much depth. In fact, just about everyone else in the band contribute vocals here, too, and the album has some of the best post-Queen vocal harmonies I've heard. Their love of Queen extends to a smidgeon of Brian May styled guitar sounds here and there; plus they even sneak in a "play the game" vocal harmony in 'Tragic Alter Ego'. Oh, and 'One Small Step' has an emphatic Beach Boys vibe, complete with harmonies that've obviously been inspired by Brian Wilson and co. Did I also mention disco? Yep, they manage to kick up a bit of a four-on-the-floor disco beat in 'Thunder in the Night', part of what's been billed as a "space travelling masterpiece", 26 minute conceptual suite of music, while cheekily opening the track with, "Can't take any more of this four-on-the-floor". Fantastic!
All in all, then, despite a noticeable absence of songs about our beloved furry feline buddies, 'Day Trip to Narnia' is sheer class, and an outing filled with authentically conceived nostalgic delights and unmitigated entertainment. They've got me hooked. Love it. Even the cheese. Just as a cat would.
DAY TRIP TO NARNIA
Review by Mark Holmes
1st March 2019
1) Narnia; 2) She Talks Too Much; 3) Hologram Man; 4) Tragic Alter Ego; 5) Silver and Gold; 6) Chasing Diamonds; 7) Unicorn; 8) The Story of Johnny Rocket I - Space Overture; 9) The Story of Johnny Rocket II - Johnny Rocket; 10) The Story of Johnny Rocket III - Thunder in the Night; 11) The Story of Johnny Rocket IV - One Small Step; 12) The Story of Johnny Rocket V - Twilight; 13) The Story of Johnny Rocket VI - Yesterday's News; 14) The Story of Johnny Rocket VII - Destination Unknown
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...'Day Trip to Narnia' is sheer class, and an outing filled with authentically conceived nostalgic delights and unmitigated entertainment."