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Cats On Fire

The Province Complains
Our Temperance Movement
Dealing In Antiques
All Blackshirts For Me

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Cats On Fire

The Province Complains ( 2007 )
I am the White-mantled King / Astray / Higher Grounds / Heat and Romance / Born Again Christian / The Smell of an Artist / Chain of Saints / Mesmer and Reason / If You Must Tell Him / The Sharp End of a Season / Draw in the Reins / End of Straight Street

Every new British group is influenced by either The Libertines or Oasis. Such a state of affairs can get rather boring when a procession of new bands appear all sounding exactly the same. 'Cats On Fire' are from Finland and sound like a mix between The Smiths, Felt and Belle and Sebastian. The guitars chime like it was 1986 again. It's such a pleasant sound to hear in the midst of the mire that currently is UK indie-guitar music. Prime melancholic indie music for those cold winter nights, indeed. The picture is complete when we add in a vocalist with a quiff and a penchant for sounding like a cross between Morrissey, Robert Smith and David Gedge. It's alledged that at least one member of Cats On Fire wears a cardigan. All of this is good so it's a relief that the music lives upto its potential. Right from the off with the great 'I Am The White-Mantled King' we see a sense of joy shining from the melancholy. A band as great in summer as they are in winter. Organs swirls away in the backdrop of the jangle guitars and reminds very much of mid-eighties Felt albums. In amongst the charming crooning a key lyric appears no ones left me, i'm just alone although followed later by there will be people in love. It's all rather very good indeed. Melodies abound, female harmonies here and there. 'End Of Straight Street' which closes the album is just as good as anything else here as you long to see Cats On Fire support Belle and Sebastian. On the surface, it appears Cats On Fire have what Belle And Sebastian had circa 1996/1997, a sense of magical mystery.

'Higher Grounds' opens with what appears to be Finish but actually is English. It hardly matters about the diction as the song swings into gear straight away with happy melodies and the kind of lyrics indie-jangle fans love. A kind of early REM circle song, where the guitar pattern goes round and round and round yet the song seems to progress anyway, through rather than despite of this repetition. Of the twelve songs on the album only the bouncy, jaunt of 'Astray' sounds out of place, a little too simple. 'Born Again Christian' on the otherhand is simply great pop music. I don't know what else to say really, it just makes me grin and smile and the lyrics are all remarkably good for a Finish band singing in English. The real gem among gems arrives though with 'The Sharp End Of A Season' which comes across like a great lost Smiths b-side, and we all know Smiths b-sides were excellent, don't we? A slower song such as 'Heat And Romance' is welcome to provide variety, sounds like a late-night, sad yet keeping warm under the covers tune. What else? How about you try buying the album. It's on itunes and amazon, what more do you need? This band are an anti-depressant amongst a litter of Kasabians and Klaxons.

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Our Temperance Movement ( 2009 )
Tears In Your Cup / Garden Lights / Letters From A Voyage To Sweden / Never Sell The House / The Steady Pace / Lay Down Your Arms / Fabric / Horoscope / The Borders Of This Land / Our Days In The Sun

I had found Cats On Fire via Myspace searching for bands that might sound like The Wedding Present, Felt or Belle and Sebastian. Cats On Fire were really the only act that came up that delivered upon said influences rather than wearing them as some kind of badge of cool. Cats On Fire still rely on this kind of word of mouth rather than chasing NME front covers and wearing trendy fashion gear. They are Finnish indie-jangle, a term I believe has never existed before. They are proud of the songs they produce without feeling the need to talk a whole lot about themselves. They have little that's interesting in the way of back-story and you're unlikely to just stumble across their albums in your local mainstream record emporium. This kind of fame-reluctance was once seen as an essential ingredient in any good alternative group whereas now such an attitude is seen as both unambitious and a kind of anti-establishment pettiness. We're all seemingly meant to embrace Girls Aloud and Lady Gaga ironically to throw our actually just as mainstream tastes in 'indie-rock' into sharper focus. Either that or Cats On Fire are actually not quite obscure or weird 'enough' to appeal to the hipsters endlessly quoting bands nobody has ever heard of in an effort to appear all knowing and above such mindless concerns as being able to hum a good tune.

'Tears In Your Cup', 'Letters From A Voyage To Sweden', 'The Steady Pace', 'Lay Down Your Arms' and 'Fabric', a good half of the album, are songs that aren't really instantly memorable but they are endlessly memorable. They're so seemingly unasumming that we can seem to 'get them' straight away and dismiss them as mere mediocrity when actually these kinds of songs were exactly what indie used to be all about, it was the dedicated, patient and true music lovers wise enough to see beyond instantaneous thrills that would persevere to receive the magic within. 'Our Temperance Movement' has just such magic, 'Tears In Your Cup' and 'Lay Down Your Arms' being happy, jangly pop moments of joy, 'The Steady Pace' and 'Letters From A Voyage To Sweden' being classy moments of introspection and 'Fabric' is a quirky jaunt of a tune that chugs along to itself merrily. In fact, although i've mentioned the above songs, only really 'The Borders Of This Land' completely fails to lodge in my brain, I can't connect to it somehow. Yes, Cats On Fire are indie-jangle with dashes of subtle instrumental flourishes all of which fail to convince you they are particularly adept musicians, rather just adept enough. Yes, Cats On Fire are not as good as Felt, The Smiths, early Wedding Present or early Belle And Sebastian. Yet, they still rank as a band you can firmly call your own, have your own individual relationship with and feel happy that nothing else matters. It doesn't matter if your friends like them or not or whether they are considered cool, uncool or just not really considered at all.

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Dealing In Antiques 8 ( 2010 )
Your Woman / Poor Students Dream Of Marx / Never Land Here / Crooked Paper Clip / Something Happened / On His Right Side / Don't Say It Could Be Worse / My Friend In Confortable Chair / You Will Find Me Where You Left Me / Solid Work / Higher Grounds / They Produced A Girl / Honey Your Baby / The Smell Of An Artist / Your Treasure / The Cold Hands Of Great Men / Draw In The Reins / Happiness Is Chemistry / Stars / The Hague

One thing i've learnt from this release, namely 'Cats On Fire' released their first EP way back in 2003 yet took four years to release their debut LP proper - the frequently marvellous 'The Province Complains'. I don't mind the wait, you see since discovering Cats On Fire i'm a happier person than before I discovered them. What's more, 'Dealing In Antiques' gives me and people like me the ideal chance to catch up. See, If you're a Smiths or a Belle And Sebastian of course you've got to do an album of b-sides, unreleased tracks, a cover of White Town's 'Your Woman'.... what? Yes, one-hit wonder White Town get the Cats On Fire treatment, quite charmingly actually. Well, it's treated seriously, not even a sign they are being tongue in cheek. Far better is the other brand new track here, the lovely 'The Hague', a repeating, subtle acoutstic guitar figure and intelligent lyrics. Good to see Cats On Fire still improving, really. Not that the old stuff was terrible, far from it. 'You Will Find Me Where You Left Me' seems straight from The Smiths circa 'Meat Is Murder' and it's utterly gorgeous - melancholy yes, romantic yes, utterly beautiful all told. This together with 'The Hague' is almost reason enough alone to pick up this compilation but there are some other modest gems too. We get repeats/earlier versions of a couple of album tracks such as 'Draw In The Reins' and 'Higher Ground', but that's ok. We expect that on a compilation such as this. Most of the material is new to me though, those early EPs were extremely scarce by all accounts.

'Never Land Here' is typical of the quality of the tracks Cats On Fire don't manage to fit onto their regular albums. A decent musical hook, simple yet sincere playing and those strange Norwegian vocals singing Morrissey's diary. I adore 'Solid Work', a little song of nothing but the lyrics and the weary way they are sung just hit the spot everytime. Ah, those Cats On Fire lads, a band i've been unable to get any of my friends to like bar one or two. Maybe this kind of music isn't for now? Well, it is for always. Those that like Cats On Fire tend to be the kind that want to write Cats On Fire on their satchels in the nineteen eighties. You know where i'm going with this, don't you?

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All Blackshirts For Me 8 ( 2012 )
Our Old Centre Back / My Sense of Pride / A Different Light / There Goes the Alarm / After the Fact / The Sea Within You / 1914 and Beyond / Well Well What Do You Know / Smash It to Pieces / It's Clear Your Former Lover / A Few Empty Waves / Finnish Lace

Our friendly Finnish indie-janglers return with another album that will need to survive on word of mouth alone, as absolutely nobody even writes about them, let alone plays their music in the United Kingdom. I hold out some faint hope that they enjoy top ten albums and such-like in some northern european territory, but somehow also know this is very unlikely. Europe shares a love of football, and 'Our Old Centre Back' as such reaches out with its softly strummed guitars and yearning vocals - a delicacy. 'My Sense Of Pride' meanwhile is classic Cats On Fire, crooning vocals, chiming and jangling guitars and a sense of unfashionable sweaters being worn. Melody filled, a touch of melancholy - 'My Sense Of Pride' is also strangely fun, in a way lovers of 80s indie guitar pop can perhaps only be qualified to attest to. 'A Different Light' opens with chiming guitars and chiming cymbals being tickled and a vocal melody that one could kiss and hold tight. The Smiths no longer exist, 'Cats On Fire' are the closest we can get - 'There Goes The Alarm' being a 'Hatful Of Hollow' styled softer number, all 'rise and fall, there goes the alarm, rise and fall', as the lyric goes. Me? I like The Sweet. 'Blockbuster', one of the greatest songs ever written.

'After The Fact' is 1987 in particular, a song after the first jangle-rush of 1986, a little more advanced - just the type of thing Cats On Fire have done from day one of course, little guitar shakes, little drum beats and romantic - slightly weird because it's a guy from Europe singing in English - vocals. Harmonies pop up, utterly flat, out of tune yet lovely harmonies. Soft and quiet ones that just pop into the side of your ear without quite reaching your inner ear. '1914 And Beyond' is Piano and voice alone and is great, 'Well Well What Do You Know' starts with sprightly folk-styled acoustic and continues with lyrics aplenty and much longing and yearning. A couple of faintly drab songs follow and 'A Few Empty Waves', Cats On Fire by numbers. The closing 'Finnish Lace' is Cats On Fire produced by Joe Meek whilst visiting a Northern European fishing village - such fun.

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this page last updated 24/06/13

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