Cat-A-Tac : Past Lies and Former Lives

<img src="" alt=" " />One rather under-the-radar development in American indie music these days is the slow but steady growth of ‘nu-gaze’, an atmospheric mixture of fuzzy guitars, understated...
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 One rather under-the-radar development in American indie music these days is the slow but steady growth of ‘nu-gaze’, an atmospheric mixture of fuzzy guitars, understated lyrics, and pure harmony.  One of the acts coming out from under this radar is Denver’s palindromicly titled Cat-A-Tac, with their first LP, Past Lies and Former Lives.

Out the thin air and blue skies of the Mile-High City, Cat-A-Tac joins the growing roster of local bands, sprinkled across the United States (see recent Chesapeakers Cedars and Private Eleanor), who owe as much to the encompassing sounds of the recent ‘Canadian Invasion’ as to early nineties shoe-gaze Anglo-Irish all-stars, My Bloody Valentine.  What’s more, Cat-A-Tac have the kind of promise one looks for in an up-and-coming scene act, though with that comes some faults which need ironing out.

One thing Cat-A-Tac brings to the table with Past Lies and Former Lives is rhythm, something that is often lost among nu-gaze’s the distorted waves of sound.  The beat has a proper place amidst everything else on each track, giving the songs backbones to rely upon.  The rhythms are also not all identical, as they vary from the soft-to-the-point-of-background tempo of “Alone” and “Powder”, to the rocking ribs of “Needles and Pins” and “Credit Whore”.

Unfortunately, Cat-A-Tac’s vocals aren’t able to keep pace, quality-wise.  Sometimes they are too prominent for the slower numbers, like with “Powder” or “Jesus Won’t Save You And I”.  And other times they can fall rather flat, with achingly banal lyrics, such as on the rollicking-if-they-weren’t-so-strident anti-junkie-ex-girlfriend screeds, “Needles” and “Whore”.  The real shame is that they take away from the wonderful instrumentalism of the songs, like the fine melodies of “Needles” and “Whore”, or the moving echoed/reverbed background of “Jesus”.

But this is hardly the case with all, or even most, tracks on Past Lies.  “Alone” is background music that is good enough to grab the foreground, and “All I Knew” explores a darker terrain with just a hint of humor.  The two songs that best represent Past Lies, both in quality and in style, are the album’s title track and “We’re All Gone”.  Both have just the right amount of fuzziness: enough that it is the premier element, but also doesn’t overwhelm the rhythm, or the listener.  And both show surprisingly strong vocals, which do not attempt to overtake either song.

Nu-gaze is not an easy form to master, but it rewards those who do, both of which can be seen on Cat-A-Tac’s Past Lies and Former Lives.  There are some errors, but they are neither pervasive nor dominant, showing that the young band can and will overcome them.  For the most part, Cat-A-Tac delivers atmospheric melodies with winning beats that stand out from the burgeoning nu-gaze scenes.  This year, Denver gives us another season of MTV’s The Real World, and next year it hosts the Democratic Convention, but now we get something we’re actually are looking for.

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