12 July, 2008

Time to Get the Party Started

So Many Nights by the Australian band The Cat Empire, is a pumping party album. There are fifteen songs that set the mood for a night of swinging, swaying, and carousing.

Start with the title track, which bumps and and bounces like the best R&B and Soul music. Then try channeling the sensibility of "Panama", a laid-back summer song that would perfectly soundtrack the final hours of a beach party. "Fishies" has a strong Cuban flavor, but also reminds me of the slickness of the 1950s with zoot suits and big, shiny cars. "Sunny Moon" is a song full of contrasting textures. The horns pump in at full-blast, but are then replaced by rhythmic and monotone vocals. "Til The Ocean Takes Us All" has the deep groove of Sublime's best songs, but the vocals have a completely different sonic texture. The sounds are relaxed, but they aren't mellow. "No Mountain" has a reggae loop, and a bass line that rises and falls like the ocean on a calm day. "So Long" is anything but calm, it's a smashing sign off with heavy brass and an insane organ/percussion mix. "No Longer There" is a soft song where crying guitars, piano melodies, and vocal harmonies meld to form a nice song for the quiet hours of the night. This song would make nice sleeping music, but it's one of only a few on the album that really chills out. "Lonely Moon" feels very calypso, while "Radio Song" has undoubted roots in Latin American music and Afro-pop. The rhythm is so strong on these songs, and on most of the songs on the album, that you have to give great credit to the percussion section (Felix Riebl, Will Hull Brown, and Jamshid Khadiwhala) and the bassist (Ryan Monro) who keep everything grooving with precision. "The Darkness" is very experimental, with Middle Eastern and Asian musical influences found alongside hard rock and hip-hop vibes. "Voodoo Cowboy" combines klezmer, swing, psychedelic rock, and American Western style music. It's an amazing explosion of sound-flavors, and it's also very catchy. "Strong Coffee" can keep the party going into the wee hours of the morning, with a punchy melody and a slamming horn solo. "Won't Be Afraid" slides and whirls around a chorus that's boosted by the perfect horn play. The Cat Empire masters of brass are Harry James Angus (full-time member) and Kieran Conrau and Ross Irwin (basically full-time members, who aren't listed as such for reasons I do not know). As a group, they seamlessly weave their horns together, sliding inside and outside of the rhythm and guiding the melodies of the songs. "Wanted to Write A Love Song" starts off like "King of Bongo" by Mano Negra, but then soars into a strong chorus that tangos until the last notes of the album.

So Many Nights never stops being fun or interesting. There's enough continuity to make the songs cohesive, but enough experimentation to keep the listener far from boredom. These are the traits that make So Many Nights such a great party album, but it's the perfect combination of horns, rhythm, and guitar and piano melodies that will keep you dancing from the time the sun sets until the time the sun rises again.

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