After a seemingly long wait on from the self-titled debut of 2011, Cat’s Eyes return in their orchestral glory, with a further progression into 60’s nostalgia to further accomplish their sound. Leaning on a bed of experimental electronic composition, classical arrangements, and an obsession with the gang imagery and funfair rebellion of girl-groups from the mid-twentieth century, Rachel Zeffira and Faris Badwan complement each other’s tastes to (again) conjure something ultimately vivid and captivating on their latest album, ‘Treasure House’.
Between his works with the Horrors, Faris Badwan has openly discussed and displayed his varied and eclectic tastes; Cats Eyes is the perfect non de plume for himself and Canadian composer and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira to vent their retro song-writing style. Finding the time collectively between their other projects has seemed virtually impossible, hence the gap – but since the recent film score work that precedes this album, ‘Treasure House’ is a record that showcases a wide plethora of directions, yet never displaying itself as unrefined.
The most noticeable evolution of the project in the last five years is the movement of influence between members – Zeffira’s background in classical/opera composition formed the basis of the pastoral and elegant lavishness on that first record (further listening should be Zeffira’s magnificent solo debut ‘The Deserters’, which came out on short-lived RAF records in 2012). ‘Treasure House’ seems to have an altogether different string of direction, this time dominated by Faris – leaning more into Badwan’s not-so-secret fondness for 50’s and 60’s girl groups. Reminiscent of works by Joe Meek, Phil Spector (most notably his work with the Crystals and the Ronettes), and anything that George ‘Shadow’ Morton got his production rights on, this album proudly reconstructs the sound of the era, but with its own vibe. The structure that blends the 60’s girl-group naivety with the orchestral roominess gives this record its own kind of pastiche.
A perfect example of this is ‘Be Careful Where You Park Your Car’. With handclaps, wooping harmonies and sugar-sweet lyrics with a sinister, paranoid undertone, it sits in the Shangri-Las/Kinks Venn diagram that the duo form. Their yin yang sculpts something that encompasses both their desires of what this side project can accomplish, and it comes out sounding democratically luscious.
Meanwhile, a nostalgic super 8 soundtrack permeates your thought elsewhere on the record – tracks like ‘Girl in the Room’ and ‘Drag’ are both romantically threatening. They paint a peculiar picture of a black and white film of a Riviera somewhere in Europe, as lovers collapse into each other’s arms, despite it never being able to work between them. Truly heart breaking song-writing in the most complimentary sense.
Ultimately this was worth the five year wait, without even realising it was underway – it’s a solid step up from the duo, which encompasses a fine development on the music of their interweaving backgrounds. Finding the time between their own endeavours to create under this moniker is rewarding from the listener’s perspective, and ‘Treasure House’ will keep us going for another half a decade.
‘Treasure House’ is out June 3rd
Words by Jack Stevens