Back in 2015 I got a download link for a new band called Cats In Space. Cats In Space, I thought. What a weird name. Who on earth names their band Cats In Space? I instantly thought that it was a pretty lousy name for a band and had I not gotten said download link, it’s doubtful that I had ever checked the band out. But I’m glad I did because the album in question, Too Many Gods, was brilliant. The press release said that they sported influences from bands such as The Sweet, Queen, Styx and Cheap Trick and the mention of those bands was enough for me to look forward to give the album a few spins and afterwards, the bands mentioned were all in there. Cats In Space plays melodic hard rock full of both pomp rock and AOR influences and the guys sure knew how to write addictive hooks. For me, the record pretty much showed up right out of the blue and I had never heard of the band before so the whole “supergroup” tag the band got – a bunch of musicians from different bands gets together in a new band – made me wonder if that album was a one-off and that if Cats In Space might have been just a project. Luckily enough, it wasn’t because right out of the blue once more, the band throws the follow-up on us and this time I was very keen to hear it.
Opener “Jupiter Calling” is pomp rock heaven, heavy AOR with symphonic undertones. Boston and ELO and even Angel shows up as influences here. It’s pretty bombastic but it also has a killer arrangement and a chorus that hits pay dirt right on the spot without being very hit-friendly at all. The album couldn’t have started better. First single “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” follows and it takes a hold of me right away. It’s an upbeat pop-rocker with a big chunk of early 80’s AOR but also Andy Scott’s Sweet comes to mind. The big melody is right up my alley and the refrain is nothing but friggin’ brilliant! “Clown In Your Nightmare” is big pomp rock with a big AOR vibe, it comes with a groove that even funks things up and it also sports a late 80’s arena rock chorus that is catchy as can be. Then it’s time for the album’s mandatory ballad, called “Scars”. This here softie is pompous, bombastic and powerful – and so catchy it hurts. The vocals, both lead and back-ups, are affable and impressive and so are the Sweet-like harmonies – brilliant!
“September Rain” shows the band’s 70’s roots and this is a big, melodic pomp-rock groover, full of Queen meets ELO influences and a magnificent chorus that will blow you out of your skin – a real winner. “Broken Wing” is total AOR but on a Queen meets Sweet take. But that’s not all – the killer rhythm grooves almost into tango territory. Then add a classic hard rock break just when the Brian May-like guitar solo comes in. And just when you think you’ve nailed what the song is all about, they break into a bad-ass hard rock jam that even borders to metal at the end of the song. A fantastic and unpredictable tune – and probably the best song on the whole album. Then “Two Minutes Fifty Nine”, a brilliant little pop pearl, comes along. The lyrics are so spot on, giving all the radio DJs a slap in the face for always cutting off the songs and only the ones shorter than three minutes are being played in its whole. It has also got this majestic melody and some fantastic harmonies which helps to lift an already great song. The song clocks in at 3.02, just for the Hell of it.
The band takes a leap back into the 60’s with “Felix And The Golden Sun”, a nice little pop song with an arrangement that reminds me some of the Beach Boys. Jellyfish are another band that comes to mind here. It’s a pretty good song but a bit too light weight and it doesn’t floor me like the rest of the songs did. It’s far from bad though. “Timebomb” spices things up a bit and here the Cats goes back to visit early 80’s AOR and bands such as Streets, Angel and Wrabit aren’t far away, but I hear lots of Sweet in it as well. It’s got a great chorus and the harmonies are – again – magnificent. The title track is also the album’s closer and this one’s an epic piece of music. The song starts out in a fast pace – like a pop-rock AOR-ish Uriah Heep, if you will. After a while it takes a more laid-back, almost taciturn turn break before it speeds up again. It sports an AOR-ish arrangement over some progressive melodic hard rock and the whole thing is theatrical – and very grandiose. The almost eight minutes goes by pretty quick even though there’s a lot to digest here. But on top, there’s a memorable melody and a very catchy refrain – a brilliant closer.
Cats In Space have once again provided us with a piece of brilliant music, where their influences might be carried on their sleeves but at no times takes anything away from their own sound. Yes, this is AOR but not in the way many bands of today sounds. Cats In Space are more pomp and at times progressive – and what a bunch of singers they are. The harmonies bring back memories of acts such as Queen and Sweet with voices that are almost unreal. But inside the musical frenzy they, under no circumstances, forgets to write great songs that sticks – they could might as well have called the album “Hooks”. And the name Cays In Space? Well, not only have I come to terms with it, the band is so damn good that I have started to love it – I now think it’s brilliant. Do not miss this, whatever you do.
More Cats In Space reviews:
1. Jupiter Calling
2. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
3. Clown In Your Nightmare
5. September Rain
6. Broken Wing
7. Two Minutes Fifty Nine
8. Felix And The Golden Sun