Cate le Bon once made me deaf in my left ear. I couldn’t hear properly again for around six weeks. She didn’t deafen me directly, obviously, but her music did when I saw her for the first time at End of the Road Festival in 2014. EOTR has a rightful reputation for being very twee, very folky – so naturally I was so desperate to see Cate because a) I actually knew who she was (there’s loads of obscurities on the line up – some exciting, others not so much) and b) there was more than one electric guitar on stage. I needed to hear something LOUD. Something that wasn’t a variation of Greensleeves by a guy with a beard. c) I’d meant to see her at Glasto a few months previous but couldn’t summon the energy to go as I had such bad heatstroke. (NB: Sometimes when you think you might have overdone it at a festival, and are worried that you might actually die within the next few hours, drink three pints of water. You’ve had too much sun, babe.)
But anyway, I was so excited to finally see Cate (and her amazing haircut) on stage that I stood right at the front, right near the amp on stage right. (Right!)
I forgot how jangly and noisy her music was, but I didn’t care at the time that I was being deafened by it. There’s this incredibly wonky energy to all of her albums (including this year’s release! – Crab Day!), all tinged with these melancholic, dischordant progressions and beautifully deadpan and disconnected lyrics.
I tried to listen to Crab Day while at work on Friday (interrupted by actual work and making the tea rounds) and wrote down a few notes which I’ll begin with:
- Lou Reed* (I want to be a motion picture film I want to be a ten pin bowl)
So say we didn’t have the internet, and there was no other way for me to listen to this again before writing about it now, those are the ONLY notes I’d be working from.
Luckily, because I’m rollin’ in it, I have a Spotify Premium account and have been listening to it since Friday at 5:05pm on a loop.
I enjoyed hearing it on that first listen, but I wasn’t able to give it much of my attention (I was pretending to work). Now I’ve listened it to it properly a few times, I can give it the highest endorsement by saying I reckon it’s ACTUALLY WORTH BUYING. No, stronger, I’d happily part with a tenner to store this on my CD shelf. It’s music you want to pay attention to – a mini masterpiece.
It’s got all those plinky-plonks of her previous album, Mug Museum, but takes on another, janglier level. Some songs catch you early on and have you going to listen a second time – such as single ‘Wonderful’ and nursery rhyme-ish ‘I Was Born on the Wrong Day’ – but the atmosphere and flow that runs throughout the entire record gives you an inkling that there’s so much more to discover on every track. There’s so many noises! Ah, noises. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. (NB: On the comment section of that YouTube video, somebody has written ‘If you play Madness ‘driving in my car’ backwards it would sound like this’ – which is the best review ever and I hang up my hat here and retire from my music journalism career forever *hangs hat*.)
*On my sketchy first listen, I immediately thought of Lou Reed on the line: ‘I wanna be a motion picture film/I wanna be a ten pin bowl’ on Wonderful. I was all: ‘Oh my god! What a helluva line! That’s so Lou!’ Then of course, after a fairly long time of my subconscious whirring at top speed (writing about music is a skill that can be practiced and honed, right?) I realised – ‘Ah, yes. I get why this sounds so much like that banana album. She sounds like Nico.’ I also think she sings a bit like Ari Up from the Slits, and some of this album is similar to that ‘Cut’ sound, particularly on We Might Revolve. (Sorry, I’m still as obsessed with Cut as I was when I first discovered it).
Ten tracks and 40 minutes of wonky, hectic noise that can suddenly stop and come back in again with such conviction and energy you can’t help but play it over and over and over and over.
Stream it for free here.