There is a watery theme here as The Cats turn from astronauts into aquanauts and dive deep into the depths for their fourth studio album Atlantis.
Cats In Space – Atlantis (Harmony Factory)
Release Date: 27 November 2020
Words: Liz Medhurst
With the band’s USP of recreating the best of the 70’s with an original twist, first thoughts turn to finding a connection with the sci fi series Man From Atlantis, but that’s not happening. It’s a big stretch to connect to the Plato allegory too, albeit I’m always up for a metaphysical discussion over a glass of something palatable.
So, what is it? An authentic and emotional opus that stands equal to and often above the hard hitting AOR giants. It is lavishly put together too, with the artwork (once more excellently created by Andy Kitson) and associated merchandise, front and centre of the project.
Any cookie cutter review of this album is likely to mention the words bombast, pomp and extravaganza, and with good reason to be fair. These are words that do describe that heady multi-layered wall of sound. But look beyond that, go deeper and you can feel the heart and soul in this one. There’s no affectation, no making things big solely for the sake of a gimmick and this is what makes it special. Atlantis will appeal to hard rockers as well as those who like things on the lighter side, yet there isn’t even a hint of compromise about it.
This is a great achievement when you add the personal and professional turmoil of this year which has hit the band directly too, aside from the pandemic. It is quite clichéd to say that adversity births great art, I’ve never bought that argument, but no qualification needed – this is a fine album indeed.
For Atlantis, chief songwriter Greg Hart has shouldered the bulk of song writing duties as long-time collaborator Mick Wilson was unavailable. A new addition to the distinguished stable of guests to the spaceship is Mike Moran providing orchestral arrangements best described as lush.
There are a lot of musical theatre influences here, understandable with the background and experience of many of the band, but Atlantis really does Rock with openers ‘Dive’ and ‘Spaceship Superstar’ setting the scene. Of course you can still spot the nods to Queen, ELO, Styx, Thin Lizzy, Supertramp, Abba et al throughout, but what comes through loud and clear is that with this album the overall feeling is that it sounds like Cats In Space, so established is their sound now.
You can still play quite a good game in spotting any direct comparisons, like Easter eggs buried here and there, such as the countdown of the days of the week in Sunday Best, reminiscent of ELO’s Diary Of Horace Wimp – but certainly the album as a whole has its own distinct identity.
You could even regard the cameo of a talkbox on ‘Magic Lovin’ Feeling’ as a throwback to their own second album Scarecrow, where ‘Clown In Your Nightmare’ first appeared – there is not a track around that can beat that talkbox. Do not argue with me on that, this is not a debate.
The big difference here to previous works is the change in vocalist, which sees Damian Edwards debut the Mk III lineup. He follows Sweet’s Paul Manzi from the first three albums, and Departed’s Mark Pascall, whose short tenure gifted us the ‘My Kind of Christmas’ mini album.
Edwards ably ticks all the required boxes of smoothness, power, emotion and stability and some real magical touches too, such as the way he holds a note just so and goes from honeyed to harsh in a heartbeat. He is a great pairing for Greg Hart’s McCartney-like knack for melody.
The big anthem on this record is lead single ‘I Fell Out Of Love With Rock And Roll’, an autobiographical song that is truly relatable. It is followed by a duo of breath-taking quality in ‘Marionettes’ and ‘Queen of the Neverland’, both of which have an edge that really make sparks fly.
‘Seasons Change’ packs a huge emotional punch, the resonance of the lyrics regarding being grateful to be alive are especially relevant for 2020. This song wouldn’t be out of place in a Christmas playlist either, although it’s good for year-round.
At 48 minutes long Atlantis never outstays its welcome and is packed with content. If you wanted to properly recreate the nostalgia and get it on one side of a C90 then which track to drop is a tough decision, which is all going to come down to a matter of taste. For me it’s ‘Can’t Wait For Tomorrow’, which starts well with a gorgeous Lindisfarne-esque intro, but doesn’t quite reach its potential, and stays too poppy and lite.
Ending with the title track, another mini-epic where the final lines of ‘Atlantis can you hear me, are you there?’ remain swirling around the head long after the final notes have died away.
It is an album that has provided great pleasure and little disappointment.
Atlantis is released on 27 November 2020 and Cats In Space will be supporting this with a full on live stream gig from K.K. Downings’ Steel Mill.
The live stream is a full on, ‘pyro’d’ up gig, with VIP passes including an acoustic set filmed earlier at Cheltenham Film Studios.
Tickets are available from here.
Finally, the band have today been announced as Friday night headliners at next years Rockin’ The Bowl festival in Sheffield, which will be held over the weekend of 10/11/12 September 2021. You can hear all about the festival on Episode Fourteen of MetalTalk TV here.