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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

Cats of the Wild : Volume Two (CD)

The Shmat has come to expect crazy and whimsical things from the Swirlies, including but not limited to: nutty French dialogues, album titles that are longer than the official name of Los Angeles, and blistering, non-treated guitar blasts. The Swirlies latest album Cats of the Wild : Volume Two, created more than seven years after their last full work, is no exception to the rule. First, off the Shmat would like to note that this is NOT the second part of a double album release. There is no "Volume 1" and though the inside traycard says to visit a particular website for info about ordering the elusive Cats of the Wild : Volume 1, that particular URL takes you to the website for a pre-Swirlies lineup band called "Fat Day".

The weirdness is heightened by the Saul Bass - like font all over the CD (it's nearly impossible to read the liner notes) the complete absence of tracks 8-10 (these aren't even secret tracks, they're each just a minute or so of complete silence), and the long and drawn out collage of nearly 16 minutes of space and radio noise samples at the end. Damon Tutunjian, if the Shmat could just take a peek inside the swirling bits of grey matter in your head... Like any Swirlies album, the listener needs quite a gram of patience to get to the essence of the music which is actually quite beautiful pop songs encased in sheets of lo-fi distortion. The sound quality of these songs are nothing like the extreme home recording work from their earlier output... the tape hiss is nearly absent and most of the lyrics and are nearly audible! Shmat's not sure if fans will view that as an improvement though; that was a part of the particular charm that you accepted as part of the full Swirlies package.

As far as comparisons go, the Shmat thinks you will earn nothing but disdain from My Bloody Valentine purists by giving them this album for their birthday. But while Kevin Shields' glossy shoegazer mantle will always burn the brightest, the Swirlies create their own brand of mixed pop metaphors. Some may not get beyond the noise wankering and the really strange pacing of the tracks, but buried under the guise of guitar noise storms are some of the most melodic and hummable tunes ever written. The opening track,"One Light Flashing I Love You" is a bit different from their normal "sound", being a bit too clean and keyboard driven to be recognizable as theirs. But "Indian Ocean Nosedive" and "Sleepytime" will please the diehard Swirlies fan, with blasts of pure unadulterated noise from the latter song. You may want to turn your treble down here. One of the best tracks is the sinister sounding "Le Bag" which has bass and guitar lines that reminded the Shmat of great gray dinosaurs lumbering around in search of fat palm fronds to munch on. Yes, the Shmat leaves nothing to your imagination.

Although the Shmat likes this album quite a bit, it may take a few listens for him to fully appreciate how different it is from their earlier output. Get back to him in 3 months to see if he's gotten more into it.

- review by SHMAT (9.24.03)        

Bubblecore Records
302 Butler St., 3rd. Fl.
Brooklyn, NY 11217

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