Sound — 7
The Cat Empire's latest release So Many Nights continues to take advantage of the sextet's skillfully versed ska-pop movements with plump jazz horns and funky-slide rhythmic beats, but this time incorporating more mainstream pop into the mixture. Produced by John Porter who also plays guitar on the tracks, So Many Nights commences where The Cat Empire left off on their previous album Two Shoes. The songs have a bluesy polish on Panama and the title track with a tinge of tropical breezes wafting through the melodic rolls. The album drifts into the Latin-funk jumper Fishes with shooting horns that fire off like a fleet of canons. The rhythmic beats of Sunny Moon have merengue accents as the reggae fringes of 'Til The Ocean Takes Us All stir up the interplay between the band's two lead singers Harry James Angus and Felix Riebl's with Riebl tending to the hip-hop torque vocals. Very noticeable are the billowy string arrangements which float in and out of the segments like a specter. The funky beats of So Long induce a party vibe, while the tenderness of the chord sequences in No Longer There course a clean path for Riebl's vocals to slide into, engulfed in well-tailored acoustics. The bobbing rhythms of Radio Song are draped in Latin-stylized horns and comfy guitar chords while inserting shots of turntable scratchers performed by percussionist/deck master Jamshid Jumps Khadiwala. The haunting mood of The Darkness is entrancing, diagramed by hypnotic mid-eastern etchings with the fiery vocals of Harry James Angus at the helm. The album cools off with the light funk-pop throbs of Voodoo Cowboy complimented by a touch of countrified whistles. The album draws to a close with the bluesy soul-folk cadences of Won't Be Afraid and the jazz-funk gyrations of Wanted To Write A Love Song. The album takes several different turns but returns to home base at the end.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics relate to personal experiences, observations, and sometimes they are stories that have a lesson to be learned. In the song Won't Be Afraid, the lyrics are confrontational asking its audience if their words are backed by conviction and bonafide action, Well I've been to the top of a cliff and seen ships sailing away/ And I've watched the sea turn green, and bright blue fish swim in the shade/ I've imagined skies in reverse and heard stormy mountains collide/ And I was there by the shore on the night when the stars all married the tide/ When the time arrives/ When we must form a line/ Would you stand and take my side/ Would you take my side/ No, I won't be afraid/ You know I won't be afraid. Sometimes the lyrics are expressed in plain language and sometimes the messages are not obvious but made through the use of symbolism, yet they always have global significance.
Overall Impression — 7
So Many Nights does not have as many party-fun tunes as Two Shoes, but it does expand The Cat Empire's songwriting skills. The band doesn't copy Two Shoes with So Many Nights, but they do have a few odd pieces that does leave them attired like somebody else. Band members Felix Riebl (vocals/percussion), Harry James Angus (vocals/trumpet), Ollie McGill (keyboards), Ryan Monro (bass), Will Hull-Brown (drums), and Jamshid Jumps Khadiwala (percussion/deck) may call Melbourne, Australia home, but their songs show musical influences from Cuba's Havana, the Mississippi's Delta region, and the folksy acoustic threads of street performers that play everywhere in the world. Fans of Two Shoes may not have the same attachment to So Many Nights, and fans of So Many Nights may not be enamored of Two Shoes. The differences in the two albums are subtle, but noticeable. In order to infuse a more mainstream pop sound, The Cat Empire had to loosen their hold on their swigs of ska and jazz-funk. It will please some fans but not others; it just depends on what is your musical preference.