DEVASTATOR - Catfish Haven (Secretly Canadian/Fuse)
Tom Wolfe famously critiqued the 1970s as the "me generation". Having exhausted the thirst for global wellbeing that characterised public discourse in the 1960s, the 1970s was about the self, when the individual outflanked the community, money washed away love, and the leaders of the free world reminded their constituents that the most important letter in society was "I".
And so it was in the world of rock’n’roll – psychedelic pop gave way to the insipid allure of West Coast rock, and tales of collective empowerment lost out to self-indulgent narratives of introspective trivia.In that historical context, it’s one of the modern artistic world’s regular paradoxes that a band who takes its cue from the coke-fuelled sound of 1970s rock can be lauded by the same people who once rallied rabidly against the original incarnation of that rock aesthetic.
Catfish Haven is such a band, and its new album, "Devastator", is worthy of liberal, and lavish, praise.
My memories of the band’s debut EP, Please Come Back aren’t positive – I remember putting it on the stereo to a chorus of domestic disapproval. This time, however, "Devastator" takes matters out onto the open road, shifts up a gear and tears retro-rock a new arsehole.
Opening with a mock concert introduction ("number one in your hearts, number one on the charts"), "Are You Ready" offers a bar room romp call to arms, before the title track bustles into action on the back of a thundering bass line and a ten tonne box of riffs.
On "Invitation to Love", the band finds a lick so rich it’d take a government conspiracy to suppress, the 90-second "Halftime Show" locks into a "Let There Be Rock"- branded stadium rock riff that grabs your nether regions, squeezes hard and shrieks manically into your pathetic, gutless face."
No Escape" is a bluesy, cathartic journey through the imperfections of American, then, now and probably into the future and "Blue Sun" is quality linear rock of the type The Doobie Brothers understood, but lost under a mound of gratuitous West Coast production. And lest it be erroneously suggested that Catfish Haven are a one-trick pony, "Set in Stone" and "Play the Fool" invoke the same funk spirit that George Clinton and James Brown used to bring black and white together.
Throughout it all, George Hunter’s vocals are rough and emotive, the sincere yearning of a patriot left wondering for his country’s integrity in the wake of Vietnam and Nixon’s ideological excesses – or should that be Iraq and Bush.
Alongside Drive by Truckers, Catfish Haven must be the soundtrack for American renewal. It’s the country’s only real chance. - Patrick Emery
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