So Many Nights

The Cat Empire

Velour Records, 2008

http://www.thecatempire.com/

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/28/2008

There’s a restaurant near me in Austin that’s one of those giant Asian-style buffets. Its selling point is that it offers multiple cuisines – which would be fine, except that the name of the place ends up being “Chinese Japanese Vietnamese Thai American Buffet.” Now, I’ve never eaten there, but I have read the online reviews, and most of them read along the lines of “you try to do too much, everything’s mediocre.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Frankly, that kind of reminds me of the third album from Australia’s The Cat Empire, So Many Nights. While there are things on it that are done well, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, it’s too big, too spread out, too all-over-the-place to really be effective. Again, you try to do too much…

The Cat Empire cheerfully admits that their music has no real genre. At the band’s heart, they’re a jazz band, but they dabble in rock, pop, Afro-Cuban, Eastern European, flamenco, Tejano, what is almost klezmer on one track, and for all I know twelve-tone accordion. While on some tracks this creates an interesting, challenging, and uniquely delightful mix, on other tracks it just doesn’t work.  When you factor in some weak vocals – the Achilles heel of otherwise interesting tracks like “The Ocean Takes Us All” and “Voodoo Cowboy” – you have something that straddles the line between self-indulgent and ridiculous at times.

Standout tracks include the danceable, manic “Fishies,” which is by far my favorite track on So Many Nights; the gentle and beautiful harmonies on “No Longer There;” and the downright funk of “Won’t Be Afraid.” Unfortunately, they are marred by tracks like “The Darkness,” which sounds like a horrible train wreck between a pedantic Goth band and a camper full of drunken Romany, and “Lonely Moon,” which gets my vote for most annoying vocal of the year, hands down.

So Many Nights might have been better off being So Many Genres -- or, to turn the metaphor on its head, by being more by being less. As it stands, it’s too much, too mediocre, and too unfocused to be a great or even good album.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2008 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Velour Records, and is used for informational purposes only.