When the promotional sheet for Cats + Jammers says that they â€œhave been lingering in a state of obscurity since 1997â€, they are not joking. This may just be the only greatest hits album of a band Iâ€™ve never even heard of, much less heard. While the music collected on â€œPropose Toastâ€ was spread over the last decade, the surprising thing about Cats + Jammers is that the formula that they work with has changed little, if at all in that period. There is a pop-thread that is present through each and ever song on â€œPropose Toastâ€, something that calls together acts as diverse as They Might Be Giants, Matthew Sweet, Beck, and even the sixties brand of rock (Beatles, Monkees).
Of particular note during this disc is â€œMannequinâ€, a track that has Cats + Jammers experimenting with a Spartan attitude that is perilously close to the three-chord, straight-forward sound of The Ramones. The purpose and drive to this track is paralleled closely in â€œConnoisseurs of Fashionâ€, a track that derivates from the Ramones-like sound to take up something more similar to Green Day. The strongest, most memorable tracks on â€œPropose Toastâ€ are those that drop the slightly-dreamy, mid-nineties alternative rock and show a harder edge to the band.
â€œPolygamyâ€ is yet another solid hit for Cats + Jammers, using a slightly-snotty twinge and an imperfect-sounding mastering to make a greater appeal to listeners. There are no artificial walls enacted between the audience and Cats + Jammers during this track; by this, one can finally start to understand why the band felt like a greatest hits collection was necessary. Structurally, the beginning to â€œWhite People Canâ€™t Danceâ€ lifts the guitar riff from The Clashâ€™s â€œClampdownâ€, but instead of just being a re-tooled version of the original, the bratty vocals of Scott create something new and tongue-in-cheek. Incorporating an intense and impressively-arranged bass line into the track, the zenith of Cats + Jammersâ€™ eight years as a band might just be this track. The penultimate track to â€œPropose Toastâ€, â€œCameoâ€ really takes a multiple-part harmony a la Pansy Division, coupling it with the ever-present bass line of tracks like â€œWhite People Canâ€™t Danceâ€ and gradually breaks all components down to chaos as admirably as any noise act. This album is a perfect introduction to Cats + Jammers, and it was released at a perfect time â€“ the bandâ€™s fourth album is coming out in the near future.
Top Tracks: Cameo, Mannequin
Cats + Jammers â€“ Propose Toast / 2005 Scotch Hell / 17 Tracks / http://www.catsandjammers.net / Reviewed 11 August 2005