Expectations have been running high for this new album from former Bad Seed and Magazine member Barry Adamson. A recent sell out jazz residency at Queen Elizabeth Hall saw Back to the Cat previewed in all its glory to an enthusiastic crowd and the disc has now been released in all its glory for your listening pleasure.
Back to the Cat is a varied collection of tracks, each deliberately drawing upon Adamson’s many influences. Albums where an artist actively pays homage to their heroes are by their nature derivative, but not every recording that graces these pages should aim for unadulterated originality. Sometimes you have to approach an album and just ask yourself “do I enjoy it?”, and the answer with this is a certain “Yes”. A disc which echoes Tom Waits, Jacques Brel, David Lynch and David Holmes can’t be all bad, especially when mixed in with a massive dollop of jazz club chic. Niiiiice!
At first there’s a slight whiff of cheese to the CD with bombastic melodies and crisp, shiny production recalling a bygone era, but once you let this grow on you the album becomes much richer than you initially think. Once you delve deep, the whiff of wensleydale gets replaced with the aroma of a crowded, smoke filled bar with a welcome tang of whiskey in the air.
The jaunty lyrics hide a dark, misanthropic psycho geography, and it’s here that former bandmate Nick Cave‘s influence is prominent. The album’s opener recalls Cave’s apocalyptic Milton-esque visions with the earth “a churning ball of fire” and shady deals with the Devil. People is also heavily resonant of Cave’s own People They Ain’t No Good. Like Cave, there’s also a dark sense of humour to the proceedings to temper any gloom.
Other great moments on this album are the excellent instrumental Shadow Of Death Hotel which is a massive explosion of funky Hammond Organery. Straight Till Sunrise turns everything pleasantly Burt Bacharach (close your eyes and you can easily picture Peter Sellers strutting down the beach at Monte Carlo) and I Could Love You is a splendid old school soul break up song which could easily have been done decades ago by Otis Redding.
There’s some real fun to be had here with this deadbeat-friendly blues and jazz. This album is unashamedly enjoyable and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it celebrates the coolness of it’s shape- something that’s definitely not for squares.