Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit


Cat's Eyes – Cat's Eyes
21 April 2011, 16:26 Written by

Farris Badawan – the erstwhile Farris “Rotter”, front-man of The Horrors – has surprised a fair few people with his musical trajectory over the years since his first band appeared, at the time seemingly freshly-baked NME darlings. From almost pantomime goths, with a nevertheless pleasing “edge” to their garage rock, the band more recently blindsided critics and fans alike with a spacey, kraut-rock inspired second album; and now Badawan gives us this. A side project with classically trained singer Rachel Zeffira (the pair predictably subject to all kinds of “are they / aren’t they” speculation), Cat’s Eyes once again sees a step change in style and mood from what has gone before.

This is an album that purrs like the cats in question, slinky and frequently seductive. The rubric is that of the 1960s: from Girl Groups (‘Cat’s Eyes’, ‘Not A Friend’) to the Beach Boys (of whom the sultry ‘The Best Person I Know’ sounds like a female-fronted version) and Scott Walker from his Jacques-Brel-aficionado years (‘Face In The Crowd’). Although clearly a deliberate and knowing evocation of this time, the music is elevated from merely seeming a clever pastiche (although it comes closest on ‘Not A Friend’) by the enjoyably interplay of the his-her vocals, by the sweetness of many of the melodies and by the occasional curveballs that are thrown to unsettle, unseating any listener-complacency.

Zeffira, with no hint of the operatic soprano that she more usually deploys, has a breathy, sexy, beguiling voice. This is often combined with Badawan’s deeper vocal, as on the call-and-response ‘Face In The Crowd’, or on ‘The Lull’, where her ethereal, wispy, somehow distant presence is offset by his grave tunefulness.

The instrumentation is generally lush: strings are augmented by oboes (‘The Best Person I Know’), piano, French horn (‘The Lull’), contributing to a cumulative richness of atmosphere that risks becoming alienating or even bland. The track that prevents this, and introduces some – by this time needed – edge and grit to the project, is ‘Sooner Or Later’. Featuring an extremely stark, dark, almost willfully dissonant lead vocal from Badawan (Zeffira’s backing vocal barely audible), and a droned backing, this is disturbed and disturbing music, confounding and unsettling. It is also just the right touch at this stage in the album.

The other outstanding tracks here – ‘Cat’s Eyes’, coming off like a half-camp half-serious “theme tune” for the duo; ‘The Best Person I Know’, all sultry, yearning adoration; ‘I’m Not Stupid”s touching (faux?) naïve take on unrequited love – could all do extremely well as pop singles. Slighty retro, slightly knowing pop, yes, but accessible, listenable, memorable. In crafting – seemingly effortlessly – such songs, the duo would appear to have achieved what they set out to do. Pleasingly, thought, the album that they’ve left us with seems to have also given us just that little bit more. Clever chap, that Rotter…


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