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Cat Empire - Live on Earth

Cat Empire, Live on Earth

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

MELBOURNE based outfit The Cat Empire can proudly lay claim to having played 666 shows in a seven-year career. They have also played live to more people this decade than any other Australian band on the planet… and they don’t intend losing that record anytime soon.

They were recently at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire for two sold-out nights and continue to play live around Europe, determined to bring their music to as wide a fanbase as possible. And it’s growing all the time.

For those that don’t know, The Cat Empire is comprised of a large group of musicians and artists, and feature two sets of male vocals, two trumpets, trombone, tenor saxophone, drums, keys and a DJ, as well as many other instruments. Their sound is often described as a fusion of jazz, ska, funk and rock with heavy Latin influences… which means their live shows are diverse, expansive and a sight to savour (or a thing to hear).

Indeed, for a band that places such emphasis on hitting the road as often as possible, it’s amazing to think that a live album hasn’t been released yet. That’s also been remedied, however, with the release of double CD Live on Earth, a 22-track collection of material that’s available to the European market for the first time.

The band spent much of 2008 digging through their personal archives to unearth the best live takes and footage to deliver to their fans, who have been dying to get their hands on live content since the band’s early days. And the result is a superb showcase of their talents, which could even help to draw newcomers in if they’re prepared to give it a go.

Not everything works, of course, and the album is probably best enjoyed by anyone who’s caught their live shows. But it might just do enough to make you want to catch them the next time they return to these shores.

And what stands out is their diversity. Album opener Fishes is a riot of horn-charged energy that has a very Latin vibe. It’s followed by the epic, nine minute plus The Car Song, a Blues Brothers homage if there ever was one, and then the scratch-tastic So Many Nights, which is more soul-pop (complete with sassy backing and Hammond organs).

There’s a Northern Soul vibe to Lonely Moon, before the sound of Cuba combines with ska elements on How To Explain? and then an almost Cockney vocal crops up on another ska-influenced offering, Days Like These.

A little further on, their ability to deliver a slow-tempo ballad is evidenced on the smooth The Lost Song, which drifts into a wonderful brass section, and All That Talking is a cinematic, piano-based offering that conjures images of a lone ballet dancer in the mind.

The album does get a little tiresome in places, by virtue of its length. And there are one too many slow numbers to draw the first CD to a close. But as The Chariot picks up the tempo at the start of CD2 (with a Madness-style offering), with the effervescent Sly and a French sing-along version of The Eagles’ Hotel California among the highlights. Classically inspired Sunny Moon brings things to a finale with the expected flourish.

It’s a bit of a masterclass, really… with the emphasis on having a good time.

Download picks: The Car Song, Lonely Moon, So Many Nights, Sly, Hotel California, No Longer There, The Darkness, Sunny Moon

Track listing:
Disc 1

  1. Fishies
  2. Car Song, The
  3. So Many Nights
  4. Lonely Moon
  5. How To Explain
  6. Days Like These
  7. Dumb Things
  8. Lost Song, The
  9. Rhythm, The
  10. Wine Song, The
  11. All That Talking

Disc 2

  1. Chariot, The
  2. Til The Ocean Takes Us All
  3. Sly
  4. Hello
  5. Hotel California
  6. Rhyme And Reason
  7. Two Shoes
  8. In My Pocket
  9. No Longer There
  10. Darkness, The
  11. Sunny Moon