Cat on Form
Structure and Fear
This album confuses the hell out of me. Honestly. Most of the songs on here tend to range from awful to laughable to awesome within the course of any given song. So conflicted, so conflicted…
The weakest link in the Cat on Form chain is the more mush-mouthed of the two male vocalists. His voice hits its low on the opening track “I Broke a Nail” when he intones the eighth grade political sloganeering of “Don’t Buy!” much like you’d envision Sloth from The Goonies would if he were currently in a British punk band. In contrast with this, the other male vocalist’s clipped and nervy David Byrne stutter fits remarkably well with the manic “Rock and Roll Song,” one of the album’s best.
Aside from singing inconsistency, poor transitions between riffs and changing time signatures are also recurring problems. There’s a lack of smoothness to tracks like “Set Them on Fire With Their Own Matches” (not helped by the Sloth-like falsetto) and “A Whip in One Hand, Gold in the Other.” The changing tempos in these songs don’t gel and feel like two or more songs grafted hastily together to make one longer song.
Overriding these marginal-to-inferior tracks are the band’s two crowning achievements: “Action Happening” and “Broken Dialogue.” “Action Happening” is where both male vocalists finally join together with the female singer and manage to form a very ugly/beautiful call and response overtop of a pitch perfect At the Drive-In epileptic twitch. “Broken Dialogue” follows suit by providing the most seamless splicing of different riffs and movements offered on the album. It’s prog-punk that doesn’t remotely suck.
I suppose it doesn’t even really hurt that the most of the vocals on these songs, or any of the remaining songs for that matter, are largely unintelligible. It just forces the listener into the liner notes where it becomes apparent that the band’s politics go much deeper than just “Don’t Buy!” They’ve got a good message and a very interesting, if somewhat haphazard, way of conveying it. And I’m thankful for that.