Sandwiched between Adrian Sherwood’s Dub Sound System and an Andrew Weatherall DJ set, supporting Primal Scream at their Screamadelica-era all-nighters (review of the Leicester show here), Cat’s Eyes make us nostalgic for another strand of alternative music that bore out of the late ’80s/ early ’90s: drowning pop melodies under heavy synths.
Liberating The Horrors‘ Faris Badwan from his day job, his imposing black silhouette on stage, in front of a huge backdrop of grainy sepia cinefilm footage of sunsets and railway lines, stops the gurning hardcore Primals fans in their tracks, making them stare in bewilderment and bemusement in equal measure.
Badwan supposedly teamed up with composer and soprano Rachel Zeffira by bonding over a mutual love of Phil Spector-ish girl groups, and tracks like Best Person I Know and Not A Friend are indeed noise drenched love songs, at kilter with their orchestrated debut album versions. It’s hard to imagine that this side project’s very first gig was at St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, joining the choir for afternoon mass.
Playing on a darkened stage, to let the arty Chris Cunningham-directed films behind become the focal point for their burgeoning soundtrack, Cat’s Eyes are certainly indication of 24-year-old former St Martin’s art student Badwan’s growing maturity and creativity. No longer is he acting the big haired showman fool on stage. The lack of posturing and audience antagonizing is endearing and, at the same time, weird – not a word by the usually motor-mouthed singer is said to the crowd watching. Instead he seems to be using the lyrics, with his deep vocals mixed into the music, to ‘speak’. It’s a pretty deadly combination with Zeffira’s almost choir girl lilt, lifting them both to somewhere totally new.
They play through most of their forthcoming major label album, almost in track order. Bandit and Over You particularly sound like Badwan channeling a modern day take on The Jesus And Mary Chain – to end with a ferocious, energy-driven four minutes of Sunshine Girls. The Broken Glass EP track is a reminder that Badwan’s heart still beats punk, but now has added pop soul, clinching the deal with the audience with a simple yet incredible chorus, racing with dual vocal harmony against Zeffira. They leave the stage without uttering a single word, as if to say the final track said everything they needed to. And it kind of did. Not a bad start for a project so new, and with only a handful of live gigs played so far. With a new Horrors LP due this summer, here’s hoping Badwan’s proved new-found grown-up creativity reflects through on that too.