The Australian Review CINEMA, 4.5 Stars
Monday, June 28, 2010
This week’s music reviews
From: The Australian
June 26, 2010
Reviewed: The Cat Empire, Quatuor Mosaiques, Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden, Stony Plain, The Hold Steady
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LIKE a classic auteur, the Cat Empire has created a style inimitably its own, a kind of 3-D party pop with a potpourri of world and roots influences. The character of every song on the band’s aptly named new studio album is explored with the same elan, expertise and edge with which Quentin Tarantino might film a scene. Evidence would suggest that Cinema is the Melbourne crew’s most cinematic release to date. Popcorn and art-house sit side by side in the Cat Empire’s latest blockbuster. The components that have helped put it in the dress circle of modern Australian music have been recycled, spliced with other elements and crafted into a more cohesive, integrated and less genre-defined melange. Not that its new epic is devoid of boldness or experimentation.
The dub-infused, Skatalites-influenced instrumental appended to the centrepiece Shoulders is an outstanding case in point. Like its predecessors, Cinema has plenty of catchy choruses and melodic hooks — plus some of the snappiest verses this side of Ian Dury — despite a more collaborative songwriting approach this time. Long-time Cat lovers will be relieved to hear that Felix Riebl and Harry Angus still play tag team most effectively. The latter’s mariachi and salsa-inflected trumpet flurries, though perhaps less pronounced than on previous albums (in company with the Latin rhythms), provide soaring cameos at critical moments. Keys virtuoso Ollie McGill’s classical arpeggios, jazz chords and funky fills are evident throughout, especially in All Hell and Call Me Home. His importance to the band’s overall sound cannot be overstated. Jumps’s scratching is a minor but albeit significant manifestation of hip-hop, most notably in the intro to Falling. Drummer and bassman work in perfect tandem throughout, conspicuously well in the afrobeat-accented The Heart is a Cannibal. Sign-off track Beyond All, which has distant echoes of the Police, is built on a robust drum and bass groove. Honed by the best part of 800 gigs in its 10 years together, the Cat Empire can reproduce the renowned vivacity of its live shows in the studio. To press Cinema into the CD player is to invite the band into your room. Repeat listening to the album reveals new layers and nuances, indicative of the depth of the music, the collective’s arranging capability and the innate instrumental and vocal acumen. Long live the Empire: it keeps the home fires burning.