Cats on Fire – All Blackshirts to Me

Rating: ★★★★½

Having followed Finnish act Cats on Fire for quite some time, I was a little surprised with my initial run through of All Blackshirts to Me. But, having spent several days wrapped up in the record, I can say with affirmation that this is the most accomplished recording the band’s put together yet, which will surely have fans of any sort of indie-pop raving over the group.

“Our Old Centre Back” begins the affair, making light-hearted comparisons between football (soccer) and art/life.  Sadly, the lyrics seem to indicate that the centre back wins the heart of Mattias desire, rather than the narrator himself.  The solemn attitude definitely is something that sticks with you throughout the run of the album.  It’s followed by “My Sense of Pride,” which more closely resembles the recent output of Cats on Fire; it has the jangle and the pacing of previous works, but Bjorkas still seems forlorn.  It’s a personal sentiment that should be clear with just one quick glance at the title, All Blackshirts to Me. 

What I really enjoy about these purveyors of pop is that this time around they’re not rushing the songs or the sentiment.  Several of the tracks border on the 4 minute mark, or go beyond, which allows the emotional to be built up slowly.  “There Goes the Alarm” is one such song, barely trickling along, repeating lyrics time and time again.  It’s as captivating a song as the band has composed, and even in its brooding softness, you cannot escape the affecting qualities. Still, other longs songs like “A Few Empty Waves” have the ability to sweep you away, no matter what point of the song you choose to focus on.  This track opens with an acoustic strumming and Bjorkas laments, but it quickly jumps into the majestic, as the rest of Cats on Fire joins in with drums and electric guitar.  There’s something about the vocal delivery and the musical composition itself that grabs you and takes you away into some other state–a true sign of musical genius/prowess.

Perhaps the greatest success in All Blackshirts to Me lays in the sequencing of the tracks.  You can get tracks with the angular stomp like “After the Fact,” used to pick up the speed of the record, but then they’ll slow it down beyond where they’ve gone before with another number like “1914 and Beyond,” a track draped around a nice piano backbone.  No matter where the album turns, or where you jump in, several minutes of listening will take you all over the map, yet still maintain the intended emotion of the record’s entirety.

Personally, I think I’m more in love with this Cats on Fire effort than with anything they’ve done before, which is saying quite a bit.  From the personal sentiment to the discussions of European economics, it all fits uniquely within the spectrum of All Blackshirts to Me.  If you’re looking for something spectacular yet emotionally moving, then do what feels right, and fall in love with the latest release from this Finnish act.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/My-Sense-Of-Pride.mp3]

Download:Cats on Fire – My Sense Of Pride [MP3]

All Blackshirts to Me is available through Soliti Music (Europe) and Matinee Recordings (US).

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