Rising With The Sun, the sixth album from The Cat Empire, strikes a pleasing balance: there’s enough that’s familiar to satisfy dedicated fans, while also managing to expand sonic boundaries by experimenting with new sounds. So while the lively world music vibe remains front and centre, there’s a stronger emphasis here on synth sounds (notably in the opener, ‘Wolves’), making the album sound fresh and relevant.
Importantly, for a band that’s built a career on the back of vibrant and engaging live performances, this new offering successful captures their infectious energy. As usual, Harry Angus and Felix Riebl trade vocal duties, while the rest of this skilled ensemble are in fine form.
There are many animal references on Rising With The Sun: ‘Wolves’, ‘Bulls’, ‘Eagle’ and ‘Creature’ all feature as song titles. Whether it is by co-incidence or design, this seems fitting for a band that, more than any other in the country, hones in on the instinctive appeal of music.
‘Bulls’ is a standout track, building nicely to carnival crescendo, it is a wise choice as lead single. In ‘Midnight’ the band’s big sound is stripped right back for a pleasantly chilled atmosphere, while the celebratory brass returns on ‘Blasting Away’, boasting a catchy chorus that’s sure to work a treat in live performance. On ‘Daggers Drawn’ we find The Cat Empire doing what they do best: big choruses, catchy grooves, inventive sounds and lots of solos.
The most poignant moment comes with ‘Bataclan’, written in response to the tragic attacks in Paris at a venue well known to the band. It’s a track brimming with anger while also managing to be defiantly life affirming, as Felix sings: “Tonight we’ll beat the drums louder than our pain”.
The Cat Empire are a national treasure. We are indeed fortunate to have a band with so much talent making music that’s so much fun. Rising With The Sun captures them at their best.
The Cat Empire perform at WOMADelaide this Friday night and will return to Adelaide for a headline show at Thebarton Theatre on 26 May. Rising With The Sun is out now.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor