Review: Cats in Space – Kickstart the Sun
Harmony Factory (July 29th, 2022)
Reviewer: David Pearce
Cats in Space are back with their new album ‘Kickstart the Sun‘. The title, perhaps inspired by Pink Floyd’s track Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, sees the feline sextet make their boldest move yet. It’s a double album that promises to see the Cats turned up to 11. Let’s take a listen.
The intro is a one-minute track with layered harmonies that has hints of Queen and the Bee Gees amongst others. The first full track is called ‘King of Stars‘, a full-throated rock track that is as heavy as anything they have done. It is a pomp rock track that deals with the fate of the entire planet and Damien Edwards gives it everything taking it deadly seriously. The harmonies are once again layered whilst the music keeps the listener guessing throughout the seven-minute opus.
‘Poke the Witch‘ (which has a nod to that 70s institution, the Carry On films – ooer missus!) is a fantastic pop single with a brilliant vocal and a tune that immediately creates a very welcome earworm. The guitar playing of Greg Hart and Dean Howard is a crunching masterpiece of rock, the drums of Steevi Bacon provide the base of the whole song whilst, at the same time, driving it forward, Jeff Brown underpins everything with his insistent bassline and Andy Stewart finds depth to the keyboards that lift the song out of the ordinary. It is one of my favourite Cats in Space tracks ever. ‘Teenage Millionaires‘ is a Sweet style glam rock track that has charm, wit and style.
‘Goodbye to the American Dream‘ is a song that showcases a more serious side to the Cats as it reflects on the experience of people trying to escape to a better life. It is a very well-structured song with ballad style verses and a singalong chorus, but rather like Born in the USA it is one where the upbeat music is at odds with the downbeat lyrics. ‘1,000,000 Miles‘ channels Rod Stewart in his 70s pomp and does so fantastically well. Edwards demonstrates again what an incredible singer he is as he inhabits the song and gives Rod the Mod a run for his money. I loved it!
‘Fifty-One Pillow Bed‘ rather brilliantly starts with a guitar riff that echoes The Rembrandts I’ll Be There for You and has you swaying and singing along in quick order. It shows the Cats ability to take the 70s template and update it with elements of other eras which are incorporated seamlessly. ‘Charlie’s Ego‘ is a very funny song that references Beano comic strip The Numbskulls, which has to be a first, and deals with a man who is way past his best and has no chance with the type of women he used to chase! I grinned my way through it and can’t wait to hear this live.
The title track is a great example of what the Cats do best. ‘Kickstart the Sun‘ sees the intrepid explorer follow Johnny Rocket into space leaving behind the woman he loves. It is every bit as emotional as Yesterday’s News and once again features every part of the band at the top of their games. When they produce songs like this it leaves you wondering why they aren’t even bigger, because there are few groups around who can hit their heights at the moment.
‘A Big Balloon‘ has a Jon and Vangelis feel to it, and it is going to be a real grower that moves up and up people’s lists of the best Cats in Space songs. I just know that I will be discovering new depths to it with every listen. ‘Smoke and Mirrors‘ is a marvellous rock track that makes me think of Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) and then morphs into Queen style guitars in a way that only the Cats can get away with. ‘Hero‘ is a sumptuous ballad that would make a brilliant soundtrack song for a movie. It reminds me of the final section of a disco where you look around fruitlessly for a partner, then stand at the back and think, ‘Wow that’s a damn good song’ and suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so bad.
‘Last Dance Saloon‘, the penultimate track reflects on the ageing process and tells you to make the best of things even if you don’t quite get to the heights you always wanted to reach. It’s a proper feelgood song that will get you dancing, singing and thinking all at once. There is indeed no last dance in life’s saloon so you might as well enjoy the music while it lasts.
The final track ‘Bootleg Bandoleros‘ is an 8-minute epic that even has its own artwork and is clearly a track that the Cats rate incredibly highly. They are right to. It starts off with hints of Hotel California and Horse With No Name before moving in to more familiar Cats territory, yet with that country rock base to the track veering from barely heard to front and centre. This is quite possibly the most intricate song the Cats have ever recorded. American rock mixes with Queen, Dire Straits and Pomp Rock making it an absolute tour de force that never lets up through the 8 minutes of a song that just gets better and better. When they tour with this it is going to blow the audience away, and I would guess it will be the final song of the main set.
‘Bootleg Bandoleros‘ is the perfect final song for this stunning album. There is a reprise of title track ‘Kickstart the Sun‘ to finish off the album, almost as a way of coming down from the high of the last four songs but being superb in its own right it is the perfect coda.
So, there you have it. The Cats were always going to produce something special because that’s what they do, but with ‘Kickstart the Sun‘ they have produced something epic that is going to be a hell of an act to follow. Still, if anyone can do it, Cats in Space can.