Cats In Space

CATS IN SPACE – Too Many Gods

Cats In Space - Too Many GodsAlright, here we go again. What, you might ask. Well, I have written in several other reviews that I have issues with crappy band names and that I sometimes just don’t give a rat about a band because I think their name blows dog. Well, here’s a band name that will probably win the Gold medal for the worst band name ever. Just try it out. Look at it. Say it. Write it. Cats In Space. For in whoever’s sake, what were they thinking? You just do not name your band Cats In Space!!! Maybe the name has some underlying meaning that I’m clueless of, but I don’t care, you will never become huge and headline Wembley Arena if you call your band Cats In Space. And not only that, just look at the cover. For real? I just can’t get it through my skull why on Earth anyone would put out a product that looks like this – to me, this is a joke. So, you can imagine how I aroused I was when I found the e-mail with the link to this record. Well, I wasn’t. And I can assure you that if I hadn’t gotten that e-mail, I would never have checked this band out. But, for once, the stupid name worked in the opposite direction – this time I thought, I just HAVE to hear what a band with such a name and an album cover like this sounded like. I also found some interesting well-known names dropped in the press release as well. So who are these guys then? Well, this band is a six piece project from Great Britain formed by guys that have been around the musical block for ages. To call this a super group might be to stretch things a bit, but for people who are heavily into AOR and melodic rock just might recognize a few names here. As a vocalist they have Paul Manzi with a past in The Sweet, Arena and Oliver Wakeman Band, as guitarists we find Greg Hart (also on some keyboards and vocals) – the guy who put this project together and has written songs for artists as different as Donna Summer, Cher, Asia and The Sweet – and Dean Howard who’s been touring with Ian Gillan, T’Pau, Airrace, Bad Company and Little Angels vocalist Toby Jepson, Jeff Brown on bass is a guy who has been in bands such as Wildfire, Statetrooper and he was also the lead vocalist / bassist in Andy Scott’s Sweet for a while. He has a solo record on his way when you read this. Watch this space for a review. The drummer’s name is Steevi Bacon and was the second guy to jump on this project. He’s been in Robin Trower and Ben Poole’s bands. Last, but not least there’s a keyboard player, a dude named Andy Stewart who’s not only a keyboard player, but also a musical director for leading musicals and he can also conduct an orchestra – that’s pretty cool to have on your CV, if you ask me. There’s also some cool guests on this record, but more of that later. Influences like ELO, Queen, Cheap Trick and 10 CC are being mentioned. To me, this sounds interesting enough and all those influences reminds me of a Swedish band that recently released an album, an album I gave 10/10…

So, let’s see (hear, dammit. Hear!) what these furry astronauts have come up with then. Hopefully, they don’t sound as stupid as their name sounds. The title track opens the record – after the short intro “Arrival” – and what gushes over me is early 80’s AOR with a big pomp-pop-rock vibe. The song is reminiscent of later day Sweet, but has a more in-depth feel. It’s a brilliant tune, catchy as Hell and I’m floored from go. They prove it’s not a one-off with the following track “Stop”, a Queen meets Supertramp rocker with big musical undertones and some AOR thrown in for good measure. Check out Jeff Brown’s bass lines as well – brilliant! “Last Man Standing” is AOR heaven! This is really a big pop song where Beatles-esque melodies meet Queen-like guitars and where catchiness rules – amazing! If you like early 80’s AOR such as Wrabit, Streets, i-Ten and such, then look no further than first single “Mr Heartache”. This is too an amazing track, full of catchy hooks and if I was the king of the world, I would decide on this being a hit – it really should be. It also has Andy Scott from Sweet guesting on guitar. “Unfinished Symphony” might just be rock-pop-pomp symphony, but unfinished it’s not. But I’d call it a musical more than a symphony. I’d also call it brilliant! “Schoolboy’s Fantasy” – apparently only available if you get the CD (great move, people really should by CDs or vinyls instead of mp3’s or streaming) – is a ballad with Queen meets Sweet kind of vocals over an awesome West Coast / AOR arrangement and melody – killer stuff. “The Greatest Story Never Told” (the orchestra is composed and arranged by Mike Moran, a man who as worked with Queen and Ozzy Osbourne, to name a few and guest vocals from Mick Wilson of 10 CC) is epic, think about going to a musical that is only seven minutes long and you’ll get the idea how this sounds. It starts out as a ballad but it speeds up as they song goes along. I hear Styx, Kansas, Queen and The Beatles and there are parts here that reminds me of the old Paul McCartney song “Live And Let Die” as well – an amazing piece of music. “Only In Vegas” is a pop song. I can spot influences from Toto, Supertramp, 10 CC and Steely Dan here. It’s a catchy tune, great melodies that sticks like glue, but there is also an annoying auto-tune on the vocals here which should have been left off. Auto-tune never sounds cool. Never! Maybe I’m too hard on the guys, but they lose a point on it. “Man On The Moon” (with vocals by Wilson, again) is a magnificent ballad, a song that sounds like The Beatles goes AOR while listening to jazz, kind of. If some radio station picked this up it could very well end up a hit, so make this a single, will ya. “Five-Minute Celebrity” gives all of those useless reality TV stars a well-earned kick in the nuts lyrically. Musically, it is the roughest and hardest song on the record, an AOR influenced hard rock song instead of the other way around. The chorus is catchiness deluxe and is almost impossible to get out of my head – not that I’d want to. They album ends with a stripped and naked piano ballad called “Velvet Horizon”. It’s very emotional and touching, a wonderful song that leaves me almost breathless. Wow -what a ride this was.

How about that, huh? Never judge a book by its cover – or a band by its name. The name might suck, but the music is damn brilliant all the way through, the production is crystal clear and the performances from the members are – to put things mildly – faultless. Brilliant musicians is a better way to describe them. Their sound is also very unpredictable and the influences mentioned – Styx, Kansas, ELO, Supertramp, Queen, Sweet, 10 CC, Beatles and Cheap Trick are pretty spot on, but apart from a sound that is very much their own, their closest comparison have to be Swedish soft rockers Jono, the band I recently gave a 10/10 review. Symphonic rock, AOR, hard rock, West Coast, pop, musical, all in a blender and out comes music that is beautiful, smooth and catchy, but can still rock. Note to self, don’t ever dismiss a band because of their name (or album cover…) ever again! The next time I find a new record with a band called Metal Hamsters In The Night, I’m gonna dive right in. And dive right in is what You should do with this band as well. Just say it: Cats In Space! Yeah, baby!

9/10

Tracklist:

1. Arrival
2. Too Many Gods
3. Stop
4. Last Man Standing
5. Mr Heartache
6. Unfinished Symphony
7. Schoolyard Fantasy
8. The Greatest Story Never Told
9. Only In Vegas
10. Man In The Moon
11. Five-Minute Celebrity
12. Velvet Horizon