With a name like Cats and Cats and Cats you might be expecting an indie band so twee they could have been styled by Cath Kidston. Well you’d be right, at least partially. With their new album Motherwhale these cool(ish) cats deliver bright, breezy, modishly folky yet pleasingly ramshackle pop that lives on the sunnier side of the street only crossing to the darker side if absolutely necessary.

The album introduces itself with the poetic, and oddly titled, ‘Speckled Eggs For Speckled Lovers’, a strange, short and oddly structured ode that crams more ideas into it’s one and a half minutes than some bands cram into a career. It’s closely followed by ‘Return To Danger Castle’ which starts off like an Arcade (on) Fire before contorting itself into strange and complex pop patterns like a musical kaleidoscope. It sounds like three songs welded together by a mad genius with no training in the use of a blow torch. It’s song writing by committee and it’s breathtakingly ambitious if a tad confusing, a perfect description of the album as a whole.

Cats and Cats and Cats don’t pitch their tent in any particular genre preferring to leave their options completely open. Lively, folk tinged, accordion led numbers (‘The Projectionist’) live cheek by jowl with off kilter waltzes (‘Christmas Lions’) twee pop (‘Zoomercroom’) and traditional indie (‘The Seaweed Brother’, ‘Celebration’). The album closes with the epic, 13 minute ‘Come Home’ which sounds like Belle & Sebastian re-imagined by a gang of science graduates with a noise fetish. It meanders, it twists and it turns until finally it triumphantly crashes out in ripples of distortion and noise. With its refrain of “Come home I’m tired this isn’t how it should end” it’s the perfect end to an idiosyncratic album that travels in its own orbit, an orbit far from the focus group, common denominator, mass produced guff that purports to be popular music in 2011.

Motherwhale is an unstructured, unconventional potage of an album. What it lacks in focus however, it more than makes up with spirit, enthusiasm, energy and invention. At times it sounds improvised, like the band turned up at the recording studio with a bunch of ideas but no songs and decided that the best way forward was to rip up the rule book. It works, just, but it’s an acquired taste that will deliver a devoted cult following but not the mainstream success it perhaps deserves.

Photobucket