Cat’s Eyes are made up of Canadian composure and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zaffira and Faris Badwan, him from the Horrors. They make the kind of music that takes the best bits of 1960’s pop and the avant-garde to create luscious soundscapes with lurid subject matter. But instead of sounding like a vanity project from a member of one of the most consistent and lauded bands in recent years, it comes across as a fully formed project. “That’s great though” I can hear you say. Yes it is, but it’s not perfect.
The main problems with their latest album Treasure House is that the sequencing feels too formulaic. The album opens with the title track ‘Treasure House’. Delicate strings welcome us before Badwan’s lullaby-esque vocals tell us this that he has a sensitive and tender side that doesn’t really have a place in the Horrors. On ‘Drag’ however Zaffira shows she can do anything her partner in crime can, but she adds a 1960’s beat music shuffle to it. This is the kind of track that Candie Payne always hinted at, but never quite delivered. Massive vocal hooks, catchy drumming and the whole thing is drenched in an effortless cool vibe. ‘Chameleon Queen’ sees Badwan having a bash at Beatles-esque whimsical pop. You can almost see him in a black Sgt. Pepper outfit with silver trim while he croons “I don’t care if you want me back” and “I don’t care about you anymore” while faux-psychedelic organs swirl around us. George Martin would have been proud. ‘Be Careful Where You Park Your Car’ sounds like a follow to The Angel’s classic ‘My Boyfriends’ back which see Zaffira’s vocals filled with venom and spite.
The problem is by now you’ve worked out the formula for the album. One track has Badwan on lead vocals, the next Zaffira. This pattern pretty much follows through for the whole album and kind of takes the edge off it. This isn’t to say that the songs themselves are formulaic. Far from it. ‘Standoff’ is filled with a garage rock menace and threat. Badwan practically snarls his way through with biting lyrics. ‘Everything Moves Towards the Sun’ has a childlike music box quality to it. It’s delicate and measured, but the lyrics are poignant, “Everything move towards the sun, everything’s turning”. On ‘The Missing Hour’ Badwan does his best 1930’s Scott Walker. A troubled story is played out over a ridiculously cinematic backing track. The Strings and arrangement of ‘Girl in the Room’ seem to be inspired by John Barry and a vocal delivery that Nancy Sinatra would be proud of, make it sound like the best Bond theme that never was.
But the main problem with Treasure House however is that Zaffira and Badwan aren’t on enough songs together. The reason their self-titled debut album worked so well was because on the tracks where they duetted it sounded like a post-punk Nancy and Lee. The melodies were gorgeous, the subject matter dangerous and the overall results was breath-taking. The juxtaposition of their vocals justified the price alone and the rest was a bonus. On Treasure House however this doesn’t really happen. Yes the songs are catchier and slightly better executed, and the music evokes a by gone era but remains grounded in the modern world so it’s not a pastiche, but it all sounds, well, too safe. And safe isn’t what you want from a Cat’s Eyes album is it?