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Music Review: The Cat Empire – So Many Nights

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Some empires fall to pieces while others flourish. In the case of Australia’s The Cat Empire, the funky-ass melodies and jazz/ska/rock/Latin/whatever fusion of their sound has helped the six-piece prosper while many others would have long crumbled under the pressure.

Beginning as a trio in 1999, The Cat Empire didn’t put out their first album until 2003. The self-titled release was made while heavily touring Australia. By the time the debut was released, the group was a full six-person collective and had a track (“Hello”) in heavy rotation on BBC Radio 1.

So Many Nights, which is the band’s third album, was released in Australia in September of 2007. The subsequent Australian tour included a record-breaking eight shows in seven nights at Sydney’s Metro Theatre. So Many Nights hit its American release on April 22, 2008 and has been generating a good deal of buzz for the sextet from Down Under.

Featuring the 2007 line-up of Felix Riebl on lead vocals and percussion, Harry James Agnus on trumpet and lead vocals, Ollie McGill on piano and keyboard, Ryan Monro on bass, Will Hull Brown on drums, and Jamshid “Jumps” Khadiwhala on turntables and tambourine, The Cat Empire cranks out party music with depth and enthusiasm. The collective also features The Empire Horns, a small group of trombone, trumpet, and sax players who are essentially considered full-time members.

With So Many Nights, the songs are pulled from stories and adventures from the band’s travels. This meant that the group needed to step beyond their normal “party thing” and head into more pensive terrain. While the funk and strong melodies are still present, fans of The Cat Empire may find a little more profundity and meticulousness on this record.

The songs still crackle, but some might find a little more introspection than they bargained for.

When the funky introduction of the album’s opener and self-titled track takes over, however, it becomes apparent that The Cat Empire is a tight unit. The addictive catchiness of the chorus and the danceable rhythm is hard to resist. And so it is with So Many Nights, as songs take off like fireworks and splash captivating rhythms and vibrant melodies damn well everywhere.

Some songs slow the party down a little, like the fanciful and delightful “Panama,” the melancholy of “No Longer There,” or the mystifying reggae tone of “Til the Ocean Takes Us All,” but the magic of this grand collective is still very much there.

Other songs play with ska (“Fishies” and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones-esque “Sunny Moon”), while others tinker happily with jazzy strutting (“Lonely Moon”) and Middle Eastern flavor (“The Darkness”). To say that So Many Nights is never boring is an understatement; each track offers something new, fresh, and inviting.

The Cat Empire’s latest is an inspiring musical journey through a slew of different genres. The band never lets up and, although some tunes sound a bit congested and the turntable often seems gratuitous, the group’s exciting ear for melody comes through in the most unlikely of places.

So Many Nights is another worthy entry in the “mythology” of The Cat Empire.

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