There are pros and cons for having been the first signing on Noel Gallagher‘s Sour Mash label. Obviously, the exposure is huge, but the downside of this is that it’s pretty much the main thing – if not the only thing – that you’re recognised for. And that’s a pity, because Proud Mary are a talented bunch in their own right. Songs From Catalina is their fifth album, and, while they’re never going to be accused of rewriting the musical rulebook, it’s a perfectly pleasant listen throughout.
‘Easy Tiger‘ is certainly a very palatable opener, its blue-eyed rhythm and blues giving off a similar vibe to Elbow on their classic 2008 single ‘Grounds For Divorce‘, and ‘Spaces And Places‘, which follows immediately afterwards, is more akin to a cross between Talking Heads and The Cars. Its background motif is pleasingly off-kilter – it sounds, bizarrely, like I’ve gone to visit my mum and put a record on, but someone has rung her melodic doorbell, which plays at almost the same volume over the top. It shouldn’t work but it does, and it is easily one of the album’s standout moments, especially when the layered backing vocals kick in towards the end of the song.
Then we come down a little, to ‘Meet Me In The Morning‘, which is more steeped in folksy Americana than anything else, something this band has always been good at. Dylan meets The Rolling Stones, perhaps, and what’s not to like about that? After that we have the most recent single. Now, there’s nothing wrong with ‘Lazy Days And Loaded Nights‘, but you know how sometimes a song will remind you of something else and you can’t shake that feeling from your head? Well there’s a double whammy here because there’s a certain passage that gets in my head which is practically identical to either Sister Sledge‘s ‘Frankie‘ or ‘The Greatest Love Of All‘, most famously popularised by Whitney Houston. I can’t get to the end without bursting into one of those two songs, depending which comes to mind first. Every single time!
Similarly ‘Keep It Movin‘, ‘Wonderland‘ and ‘Hollywood‘ all sound like something from The Verve‘s 1997 long player Urban Hymns – chilled out summer vibes that meander nicely enough but are hardly likely to knock anyone’s socks off. ‘How Does It Feel‘, on the other hand, sounds rather like a Graham Nash composition and benefits greatly from that.
The remaining tracks are all traditionally arranged, and I feel like this is where the band really shine – the Harvest like ‘All Your Friends Are Mine‘ and campfire singalong ‘Oxwich Bay‘ are really quite lovely, ending Songs From Catalina and making you glad that Proud Mary exist as an entity and not just as a pocket money making exercise for Uncle Noel.
Songs From Catalina is released on June 26th through Proud Mary Records.