It’s a strange old time for indie pop, at least in terms of getting records into the singles chart. Ten years ago, bands like The Kooks and The Courteeners would have hit after hit, while these days, those very same Courteeners can sell out stadiums and not get a sniff of the Top 100. Blossoms’ highest single chart placing so far (in their position of current indie pop kings) has been No. 98.
And so to Catholic Action, the Glasgow band whose debut album In Memory Of could almost be a reference to those chart-tastic halcyon days, packed as it is with potential future singles and actual former singles (no fewer than six tracks have been previously issued on 7″, download and even cassette single). The policy to include the already-released tracks is a smart move; too many bands discard their early releases when it comes to recording the debut album, which is a shame for fans belatedly catching up.
Opening track ‘L.U.V.’ is one such example. Eschewing the oft-used, often annoying practice of beginning albums with a gradual, quiet opening, ‘L.U.V.’ jumps out of the speakers and gives fair notice of what to expect, a playfully bouncy song that hints a little to Franz Ferdinand (frontman Chris McCrory does have an air of Alex Kapranos about his delivery). So far, so good.
The album’s absolute highlight, this Summer’s ‘Propaganda’ 45 comes next, a high-octane DIIV-style tune with the sobering (to a 40-something reviewer) pronouncement “I was born in 1991” (or is it 1992 or even 1993? Repeated listens bring a different conclusion each time thanks to a clever backing vocal which sort of masks the number!). It’s a fantastic track and zips by in well under two minutes. Also, it has a video featuring Chinese subtitles that cost £7.68 to make, the band recently making available a breakdown in the video’s costs, the lion’s share of which were for a bunch of flowers from a well-known supermarket!
McCrory has apparently labelled the record “a collection of things”, and it is easy to see what he means – the band show many different sides and influences throughout the album, which in some ways sounds like a compilation (not a criticism – Hatful Of Hollow was one!). So ‘Say Nothing’ has echoes of XTC, while the following ‘Black And White’ sounds absolutely nothing like them. What it does sound like is a huge hit, but its release last month sadly didn’t bring this about.
‘Breakfast’ first appeared last year coupled with ‘Rita Ora’ (sadly not featured here) and appears to be a hymn to the travelling businessman and features the killer couplet “A little plate of all life’s elation / For good and proper administration”. It’s not as immediate as the first couple of tracks but repeated listens reveal why it was chosen as a single.
‘The Shallows’ is an anthemic singalong, maybe even a little Snow Patrol (come back!), while ‘New Year’ suffers from an almost-too-jaunty riff that comes over a little like one of those novelty Status Quo records from the 1990s.
In Memory Of contains some really strong pop songs though and stands a real chance of following the aforementioned Blossoms’ success. Catholic Action have the tunes in spades and so many bands can’t lay claim to the same. ‘Stars and Stripes’ glides by as an epic finale, a proper ‘last song’ and seals a strong debut for the Glaswegians.
In Memory Of was released on 20th October by Modern Sky.