The Fat Cats - Deadbeat

Sam Wetherell 08/08/2005

Rating: 5/5

It is a quiet weekday night, and I am running out of excuses. Its about time I listened to the terrible looking pile of promos sitting next to me. It all looks like snotty fourteen-year-old punk and tellingly the track listings are written in that god-awful faux-graffiti scrawl (you know the one).

So I give my ears their last meal by listening once more to the Arcade Fire, pick a CD at random called The Fat Cats, slide it into my player, bow my head, and await my punishment.

And, without surprise, it opens with a rather thrashy riff, and lyrics about being hung over… …But wait. Something's beginning to change. The vocals seem somehow more interesting, the overall texture is more complex and off kilter. Hold on… is that a…? It can't be… a piano?

It sounds more like the soundtrack to a Tom and Jerry sketch than Simple Plan, or Yellowcard or whatever the thirteen-year-olds are listening to these days. This is perhaps the finest thing ever to emerge from the Stoke-on-Trent music scene (be quiet those at the back muttering about Robbie Williams), this is a band that deserves to be heard.

Come with me, as we grab a torch and plunge into the dark recesses of musical history to try and trace this band's influences. Firstly we have a wave of modern ska punk, there's Capdown behind the bike sheds with a saxophone, sharing a cigarette with the Dead 60's. Plunging on we find The Specials, and Madness crawling around in the undergrowth. Through the seventies, then the sixties and out into the other side we find the music halls of the fifties and the bass heavy jazz of the thirties and forties, where my musical knowledge unfortunately fades into a grey blob. The tongue-in-cheek rockabilly of trailer-trash America is grated into a fine powder and sprinkled over the mixture. The overall effect is the sound of Roxy Music being chased around a tree by a clown over and over again.

The first thirty seconds of “Sticky Fingers” sounds like it could have been recorded in a sleazy hotel lobby in the 1940s. You can almost the smell the wisps of cigar smoke, and hear the air-raid sirens in the distance. This track is perhaps the best and the worst showcase for the lead singers voice, which, while being rather brilliant, can grate a little in the final tracks of the album - perhaps the only criticism I can think of.

Lyrically, and vocally the album is refreshingly upbeat and perky, and is peppered liberally with bold, catchy choruses, and audacious repetitive riffs. Its dank, and sleazy, but in a rather upbeat way if you see what I mean.

“This Town”, the highlight of the album is a delicious Ghost Town-esque slab of ska fuzz, brimming with the complexity, emotional intensity (but with a nod and a wink), that good ska can produce when it wants to. The Road Ahead, likewise astounding in a goosebumpy way, is soft, woozy, and clouded with brass instruments I can't put my finger on(not paying attention in Music GCSE is coming back to haunt me I think). It sounds like “Headstrong” by Capdown being performed by Miles Davis.

At the moment they are touring Japan, and recently they played alongside (*shudder*) Snuff and (*shudder*) King Prawn in the states. Hopefully they aren't too far from breaking through, but they certain deserve it, and I strongly suggest that you try and find time for them yourself.