Artist: Cat Rapes Dog
Album: Life Was Sweet
Release Date: Sept 12 2013
After what seems like an age, Swedish EBM pioneers Cat Rapes Dog are back with Life Was Sweet, their fourteenth full length release but the first in over a decade.
This four piece, consisting of Annelie Bertilsson and John Wreibo on vocals, Jonas Awertoft on guitar and Magnus Fransson on bass and programming have been, in one incarnation or another, blasting out electro-punk fuelled ebm since before those things really existed, so how do you start describing them? How do you say what they sound like when they planted the seeds of so much we hear nowadays in the 80’s and 90s, before disappearing for 14 years in 99?!
We begin with God Hates Christians - an enjoyable, lively start to the album, sturdy beats, instantly likable, impulsive techno bass and deliberately puerile, confrontational lyrics. It’s a lot of fun, seeming very tongue in cheek, and though not quite an instant classic, you can see where the new wave of European ebm cyber punks (like recently reviewed Italian stompers Deuxvolt) got a lot of their inspiration, both musically and in terms of ethics and attitude – the beast lives on! A great track to start off with that should keep the old guard happy and hopefully initiate a few newbies!
Dead Coming Back keeps a steady stalking rhythm lurking behind lyrics exploring sexual politics and gender identity, with the odd Mindless Self Indulgence like “la-la”s in the background.
Through a Glass Darkly is lyrically questioning and explorative, and it exhibits a strangely meditative energy in its sound.
Falling Apart didn’t grab me on my first listen – in a traffic jam, on a sunny Monday - it seemed somehow empty, about to run out of juice any moment? But my second listen was at 2am in front of the laptop while a storm blew outside, and I had to keep looking over my shoulder, genuinely chilling and weird in context, with a bizarre, yet somehow perfectly apt brass (muted trumpets?)breakdown woven impossibly into its funereal, creepy wail.
To the uninitiated - and there may be quite a few given the fourteen year hiatus – the last three tracks may have sounded a little muted or flat, but this under-production is part of the band’s organic appeal and, once you sync your musical psyche to them, it all makes sense. These three tracks showcase the flipside of the crazy hyper band, a degree of understated minimalism which can be enjoyed by introspective shoegazers as well as the more hyped industrial crowd.
Vote! Is a funkier, more beat-driven affair, overtly political, and with a lot of energised chi running through it, while they implore you to take up your civic duty!
River of Pain introduces more depth, and is a bit “cleaner” than the rest of the album. Moody, hunting bass switches with epic synth-string peaks. It is also truly heartfelt, Annelie exposing something close to her core, paired with male vocals reminiscent on this track of Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch; it comes together as a beautiful natural whole.
Crystal Ball is yet another statement from this band that makes a point, of making a point! It is a cynical yet incisive rant against the commodification of all things alternative, (or at least that’s how I interpret it!) lyrically cutting but, while it is still punchy, it never quite takes off to the same degree as the previous two tracks.
Head Around is a bit of an anomaly, the beats break at times, before returning to regularity, and it’s an interesting mash up of organic beats, cyber bleeps and yet another diatribe, this time against first-world whiners, trolls and the victim mentality.
A Thousand Years is a fun track; it seems to be building to something – which is weird as it’s the last track?! – it has a slinky, stalking bass and a stomping, rising melody. There is also some strange xylophone-esque tinkling going on in the background in the calmer moments. Fun, flowing and synchronous, a strange one to end on and, while there’s some gems in here, I am not sure the album as a whole entity has a coherent narrative, but that could be a quite deliberate effort to ensure that all the varied issues (sex, politics, religion, identity, existence, consumerism, internet cowards.
As I said before, newcomers, who are used to today’s normally crystal clear production values, may find the under-production unusual for a beat driven ebm band, and it may take a couple of listens to fully mesh with the sound. But old faithful will be pleased at the return of Sweden’s electro-punk pioneers!
Take a Listen:
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