Back with their sixth album release since the iconic self-titled release in 2003, The Cat Empire return with their latest album since 2010 –‘Steal The Light’. I lost interest in the Cat Empire after the disaster that was ‘Cities’ back in 2006 but like an oft-fated reunion with a long lost best friend or lover, it hits you like a familiar smell or a history soaked memory. I skeptically eyed of the CD cover in the shop yesterday before giving in and thought to myself, “Gee I hope they have returned to form’ and boy, oh boy; they’re back with a vengeance.
The cover of the album is some weird-arse shit with carnival cats and all manner of crazy hippie shit going on in the background, which leads me to thinking it probably doesn’t have anything to do with the music; but it does – and more. In actual fact, the album cover is like an artist’s interpretation after listening to ‘Steal The Light’ and a couple of pipes of DMT. Not far from the truth, the album cover was produced by awesome talent and wizard of Australian children’s books, Graeme Base.
Large ensemble piece groups (the cats make up as many as 15 sometimes) always have their issues and this group is no different. A lot of the cats have other side projects with Felix Reibl and Harry Angus being some of the more prolific in the group. It’s been getting progressively longer between drinks for a group which has never really had a hiatus, but this album brings back something which fans have missed and the rest of us forgot – damn, they have some fucken swagger and more.
I dare you to listen to this album and NOT get up and dance. The songs grab you from start to finish and the complexity of the compositions is exquisite. I have always listened to Cat Empire on the periphery and always tried to see them live whenever I can. Their live shows really show their chemistry as a collective and remind me of other large groups like Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Herd and Reel Big Fish. This album is the ultimate showcase for their individual talents compressed into each song. It’s filled with just the right amount of depth to listen to it many, many times and still not hear every little sample, horn stab or piano tinkling.
Normally I would go through some of the standout tracks on the album, but I can’t really do that here because this review would be me just talking about every one of the twelve tracks. The only criticism I have about the release is its way too damn short. Coming in at just 47 minutes, it’s becoming an alarming habit for The Cat Empire. But what do I want I guess, its 47 minutes of perfectly driven and steered SLR McClaren and not over an hour of pulling-to-the-left and spluttering Citroen.
Reibl is again channeling the power and voice of one of Australia’s most loved and important musical talents, Joe Camilleri. I’d have to say Reibl has crossed paths with Camilleri many times over the years seeing as they play all the same spaces – Blues Festivals the world over – and sitting back after a boogie with some of the slower songs like “Am I Wrong” and “All Night Loud” it feels like Jo Jo Zep is singing the tracks instead of Reibl. That sound they have refined and purified down over the years, first coming from album number two, ‘Two Shoes’ and progressively getting stronger and stronger, is here in spades. I love Latin music when it’s done right and to see if so perfectly replicated and pushed on this release is welcome as much as it is to hear it come from a multi-nationality Oz collective.
***WELCOME BACK CATS***
9.5/10 Funky Latin Felines