Release Date: May 17, 2011
Record label: Polydor
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Call me cheesy, but the debut collaboration between the Horrors' Faris Badwan and Canadian opera singer Rachel Zeffira, known together as Cat's Eyes, sounds like a labour of love. But while the pair are rumoured to be dating, the real affection comes from their love of 60s music, specifically the ambitious production styles of Meek, Morricone, Spector, et al. The album opens with Zeffira whispering, "Let me tell you something," before launching into the poppy title track.
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You can see why Horrors frontman Faris Badwan might feel drawn to make an album with its roots in the sound of 60s girl groups. Like the Horrors – whose journey from presumed music-press joke to authentically thrilling Mercury-nominated experimentalists is about as improbable and cheering as pop stories get – the girl groups weren't supposed to last. Their music was disposable pop born out of the most disposable pop era – the bleak, forgotten period between the end of rock'n'roll's first wave in the late 50s and the rise of the Beatles in 1962/63.
Four years ago, the idea of The Horrors trading lyrical blows with an operatic songstress was hard to imagine. Back then, the over-cooked proto-goth-punk of Strange House flirted with Rocky Horror pastiche. This was not a real band. This was a cheese-string, chicken ham, beef jerky sort of band straight off the production line, massaged by the vapid palms of South London A&Rs and worshipped by a congregation of equally stagnant and hair-sprayed hipsters.
For the past few years, Horrors frontman Faris Badwan has frequently turned his gaze to past sounds and styles, from the rockabilly gutter-punk lurking under the dirty fingernails of his band's 2007 LP, Strange House, to its surprisingly successful about-face embracing of dark, melodic post-punk on 2009's Primary Colours. The past continues to be the focus in Cat's Eyes, Badwan's collaborative project with Canadian opera singer and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira. The pair create gauzy reminiscences of 1950s and 60s pop, while their videos and visual design resemble the flickering glow of a damaged, ancient TV set.
Faris Badwan has undeniably grown into his voice of late and while it may still remain limited in places, his distinctive belly croon has fast become a characteristic and idiosyncratic voice of the last few years. The vocal transformation from The Horrors debut Strange House to the follow-up Primary Colours has almost been on a parallel trajectory to that of Hayden Thorpe of Wild Beasts: both exuding their primitive and shrieking howls in the early days until they realised that restraint and velvetiness could hold just as much power, bile and gusto. So, a collaborative album with a soprano then, is a continuation of his vocal evolution while still embracing the love for sixties production and song-structure that his band expelled via the garage-romp offerings on their debut.
They say a leopard can’t change its spots. Keeping that in mind, consider the following proposition. Take Faris Badwan from The Horrors, an opera singer named Rachel Zeffira, and the desire to make warped girl-group pop. Then throw in a multi-instrumentalist, a performance in the Vatican, and a dose of psychedelia, and you’ve got Cat’s Eyes.
Amazing collaboration between Canadian soprano and English garage-goth dandy. Ian Wade 2011 Think back to when The Horrors first emerged. They looked like they could cut you up into pieces with blades while kicking your head in with their pointy boots; but in reality they were more like a bunch of Kohl’ed-up puppies who would sheepishly hand back your milk if they were caught stealing it off your doorstep.