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Cats In Space / The glow that only truly great albums bring

Having submerged the depths of the ocean for 2020s Atlantis, Cats In Space have discarded the aquanaut suits and blasted off to further, fiery territories resulting in Kickstart The Sun, the most deliciously audacious audio treat you will experience this year and probably next year too.

Cats In Space – Kickstart The Sun (Cargo Records)

Release Date: 29 July 2022

Words: Liz Medhurst

If there’s any band that you can trust to bring a spark to the scene, it’s power-glam-pomp-rockers Cats In Space. The space pods are ready for this mission – spruced up with glowing red Diablo trim, the inertial dampeners have been upgraded, the deflector shields are set at maximum and the launch accelerates the vehicles to the stars.

Back at the star base the spaceships belonging to Boston, ZZ Top, ELO, Herbie Hancock and UFO must remain sitting in dock, they are not equipped for this mission, our feline friends are leading the pack now.

Cats In Space - Kickstart The Sun (Cargo Records)
Cats In Space 8211 Mission accomplished with honours

And what is this quest? Kickstart The Sun is a reboot for a bright future; in the band’s words “time to turn the lights back on and shine some positivity and joyousness.”

This is achieved by fifteen tracks across a double album over sixty-three minutes long. And there’s not a single wasted minute. I’ve been living with this album for a few weeks now, and it keeps offering up new treasures, like classic episodes of The Simpsons, where there’s always something new to spot and delight in.

This album was recorded partly at RAK Studios in London and produced by top cat and chief songwriter Greg Hart with engineer Ian Caple, and the soundscape is pristine and opulent. These performances from all the band and special guests are truly out of this world.

I’ve heard a lot of comments over the years that all the good songs have been written. It’s hard to know where to start with that utter drivel, apart from kicking that notion straight into the long grass. Make no mistake, these songs here whether ballads, upbeat rockers or mini symphonies hold their own against timeless classics.

Take Smoke and Mirrors for example. This harmonic and punchy cut has a force that comes directly from the bloodline of those bangers from Billy Joel, City Boy and The Motors but sounds brighter, more full-blooded – and there’s even room for an old dad joke in there too.

Or what about 1,000,000 Miles? This is heartbreakingly gorgeous, the melody soars underpinned by Andy Stewart’s compelling piano. The sense of loss and separation is palpable, and Damien Edwards vocal is wistful and yearning and 100% believable. Like Rocket Man but way better. It’s a tonic for world-weary old rockers like me who are averse to schmaltz and soppiness; there’s none of that here it’s hard-hitting and the perfect antidote.

Talking of which, Hero is another beautiful ballad, with a strong emotional message about the human spirit. Hang on it must be allergy season as my throat is choked up and I think there’s something in my eye…

Ok, where were we? Oh, there’s so much to talk about on this album.

There’s Teenage Millionaire, a glam rocker for the modern era, and it’s even got a drum solo – no wait come back, really. It’s not an ego-driven overblown bore-fest, quite the opposite. Dean Howard performs a blazing guitar solo then Steevi Bacon answers going all out with rolls and fills adding a huge amount of oomph to the track.

Kickstart The Sun itself appears in three places – as an intro, the main track and a reprise. It’s a blockbuster that builds and builds from voice and piano, through so many layers and features, ending with a multi-layered vocal workout – if Damien Edwards’ prolonged high note at the end doesn’t put a massive smile on your face then you probably ought to check your pulse.

It’s a long way to the sun, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied on the journey. As a feast for the eyes, there is Andy Kitson’s artwork which is once again stunning and the concept magnificent. Being a double album there is, of course, a gatefold sleeve and the Bootleg Bandolero piece which graces it is so full of detail it’s pretty much a one-frame graphic novel.

That track makes for a truly epic finale about the pirates, thieves and robbers in the industry in an exquisite symphony of twists and turns with special mention for Jeff Brown’s melodic bass runs and Greg Hart’s astounding acoustic guitar work.

There’s plenty of room for guests on this spaceship too, it’s a hospitable environment. B.J. Cole (Tiny Dancer, Baker Street) is here on pedal steel. There are fabulous brass flourishes by Jack Birchwood and lush strings from Ian Cooper. Guest vocalists Mick Wilson, Emily Lynne and Lara Smiles add colour and depth.

It’s nearly time to land and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what this album has to offer. A musical feast which pushes boundaries and propels expectations into the stratosphere.

“After the overwhelming success of Atlantis,” Greg Hart said, “we knew that we had to push even further with this album as very early on, it became clear that the new songs were going to be very special. Two in particular I knew had the potential to be, for me, the greatest and most emotive Cats songs ever. Adding in our special guests was a logical step in helping us make the ‘cinematic’ sound we strived to achieve for the album.

“I assure you it is a huge sound that we believe will blow people away…we say it every album of course, but this time there’s something else, something more magical in the grooves for every listener.”

Cats In Space have shown what can be achieved with a dream, prodigious talent and several bucketfuls of hard graft, all the more astonishing when faced with limited budgets.

So as the thrusters are deployed, docking autopilot is engaged and the cat crew are welcomed back to base with creamy treats let’s have a debrief.

Feeling uplifted? Infused with the glow that only truly great albums bring? Yup. Mission accomplished with honours.

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