Amazing collaboration between Canadian soprano and English garage-goth dandy.
Ian Wade 2011
Think back to when The Horrors first emerged. They looked like they could cut you up into pieces with blades while kicking your head in with their pointy boots; but in reality they were more like a bunch of Kohl’ed-up puppies who would sheepishly hand back your milk if they were caught stealing it off your doorstep. Nobody would have thought, then, that several years on they’d not only still be here, but would gradually be turning into essential pop magi capable of creating wonderful psychedelic new shapes from their influences.
And the group’s side-projects have been just as interesting. The first was the Radiophonic Workshop geek-out that was Rhys Webb and Tom Cowan rehabilitating old synths as Spider & The Flies; and to that venture we now add Cat’s Eyes, which features The Horrors’ singer Faris Badwan alongside Canadian-born classically trained soprano and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira. The two bonded over a love of girl groups (more The Shangri-Las rather than The Saturdays) and set about creating what Brian Wilson once called "teenage symphonies" when their schedules allowed. Taking onboard an additional love of the likes of Joe Meek and Phil Spector, the template for this debut began to coalesce. There aren’t that many bands which choose to play their first gig during an afternoon mass at The Vatican, but as you’ve probably ascertained by now, Cat’s Eyes are a bit special, and certainly unlikely to be confused with Beady Eye anytime soon.
As an album, Cat’s Eyes is simply remarkable. Sounding like all the spectral and slightly "woooh" music of yore, its makers throw in additional elements of Nick Cave gothery, Julee Cruise, early 4AD spook, Italian horror soundtracks and the more otherworldly elements of prime 1960s pop such as Scott Walker and Bobbie Gentry. The result is a hazy, somnambulant treat.
Not a Friend sounds like a woozy dream where an angelic voice haunts from beyond the grave. Sooner or Later is actually a bit too creepy, where our Faris booms menacingly over cinematic orchestral grinds and stabs to the point you think you may have to pop the Suspiria soundtrack on for some light relief. Face in the Crowd swings through a grainy call-and-response bombast, emphasising the ‘beauty and the beast’ element that occurs through the duo’s duets. Completing the set is the delightful I Knew It Was Over, which sounds like Enya down a well, and is simply gorgeous.
At just 28 minutes long, Cat’s Eyes certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. Hopefully this is the start of a very glimmeringly troubled yet wonderfully disturbed relationship. Amazing.