The Cathode Ray’s self titled debut was one of the unexpected surprises for MPT of 2012. Initially a collaboration between Jeremy Thoms and Paul Haig ‘The Cathode Ray’ was an Edinburgh take on New York music in the late 70s, both post punk and dance. However the delay of 6 years between the debut single and the album didn’t prepare me for quite how good it was, not least because Haig had left the band in the interim.
Fast forward three years and the Cathode Ray, now a regular quartet also including Steve Fraser (guitar), Neil Baldwin (bass) and David Mack (drums), are on the point of releasing their second album ‘Infinite Variety’ on Edinburgh’s ever reliable Stereogram Recordings. And, you know what? I reckon that it’s even better than the debut.
With Haig long gone, the new LP is based solely around the songwriting of Thoms. But even if a lot of the core influences remain pertinent, ‘Infinite Variety’ is no re-tread of the debut instead venturing far beyond the confines of the first record.
The press release might give a blow by blow indication of what to expect, but to be honest, I think that does the band something of a disservice. Listened to in the round, ‘Infinite Variety’ proves beyond doubt that the Cathode Ray are forging their own identity.
This is, perhaps, best illustrated by the fact that the record is book-ended by two tracks which share similar expansive structures unlike anything on the first record, albeit each is different in tone.
LP opener ‘Backed Up’ leads with scratchy guitars and minimal bass for two whole verses before exploding into a euphoric climax. The closing ‘Saving Grace’ kicks off with a gorgeous acoustic section before finding redemption in a slightly unsettling conclusion which reminds me of nothing less than dEUS’s ‘Dream Sequence #1’.
Anyone looking for the wired post punk guitars of the first record will still find them in abundance. Single ‘Resist’ owes as much to 70s Wire as to any New York influence whilst ‘Buck The Trend’ ploughs a similar furrow but adds a playful organ as the song picks up pace.
‘Buck The Trend’ would be one obvious choice as a follow-up single to ‘Resist’ but then so would the concise ‘Don’t Waste Your Words’ with its off beat guitars or the uplifting ‘This Force of Nature’. Which rather neatly illustrates that the Cathode Ray don’t lack for great tunes.
The Moroder-like intro and electro underpinning of the choruses mark out ‘Eureka Moment!’ as IV’s obvious dance track. It’s perhaps a shame then that it’s the one song that’s a bit of a disappointment as it doesn’t quite match up to the first record’s dance anthem ‘All My Highs’.
Across the diversity of material on display what ultimately really unifies the songs as the Cathode Ray is Thoms’s knack for a memorable chorus and the consistently inventive backing provided by Messrs Fraser, Baldwin and Mack.
These guys may deserve the veterans tag but, believe me, ‘Infinite Variety’ is an exhilarating roller-coaster ride through a multifaceted post-punk landscape.
‘Infinite Variety’ is released on Monday 20th April on Stereogram Recordings – pre-order it here.
The Cathode Ray launch the album with a special hometown show on Thursday 14th May at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh. Tickets are available here.
Before that the band play a special show at Elvis Shakespeare on Leith Walk, also in Edinburgh, for Record Store Day on Saturday 18th April.