When I booked to see Faris Badwan’s Cat’s Eyes play the beautiful St. Phil’s in Salford I admit I was hoping for spectacle. The Horrors‘ frontman and his skinny jeans, playing with a classically-trained multi-instrumentalist, in one of the city’s oldest churches, with his big hair ”â it’d take someone much less gothically-inclined than me to miss it.
As it turned out, at 45 minutes with no support, it would have been quite easy to miss, and I’m unsure about how much of a loss that would have been. For both me and my other half it was one of those ”Ëshrug’ gigs, which promise much and deliver less but not to the extent that you wish you hadn’t bothered.
I wouldn’t want to judge the band’s output on the evidence of this gig alone, as the acoustics and unsurprisingly limited lighting didn’t do this performance any favours. Although I was a bit dubious about Badwan’s voice at the start it soon found its level, and musically I think he, band-partner Rachel Zeffira and their supporting guitar- and bassist would probably have sounded fine in a different environment. Less excusable to me was the banality of some of the lyrics; “Is it a rock opera?”Â I whispered as both sang (“you’re the…”Â) Best Person I Know. “More like that Twin Peaks woman singing Disney songs,”Â replied him indoors.
I’m not sure that any of the above are conscious influences, but you already know that Joe Meek and Phil Spector are. It’s a shame that Cat’s Eyes have come along in the wake of Best Coast, Frankie Rose, Warpaint and other recent embracers of the Wall of Sound as, much as I’ve enjoyed a dark take on the Meek sound since the days of The Phantom Chords, it’s a lot of echo and reverb to take in one year. And, although I’ll (foolishly) admit to The Mission, I never liked All About Eve, who a couple of the more ethereal Zeffira-sung tracks brought to mind.
I also missed the more classical and choral sounds the band’s debut at the Vatican had led me to expect but many of the Badwan-sung tracks definitely were my cup of tea, especially the Sixties-infused stompers that punctuated the set. But – although for me they were the most enjoyable – if the whole show had been in that vein I know I would have felt short-changed in terms of originality, so I’m inclined to give the less immediate stuff more time.
Short of a couple of YouTube watches I went to this gig pretty cold and Cat’s Eyes’ varied bag of tricks, from doo-wap to dirge via surf rock and glockenspiel, probably takes a bit of living with to get into. I’ll certainly give the album a fair chance when it comes out in April; if it’s a grower I can always light a few candles, backcomb my fringe and create a mini spectacle at home.