Song of the Week #26 – The Cathode Ray

Ahead of the release of their third LP on Friday, this week’s tune comes from the latest LP from Edinburgh’s the Cathode Ray.

‘Heightened Senses’ is the title track of the record and, whilst it’s not the whole story, it is a fair representation of what is contained therein:

Two things strike me about the record. The first is that there’s an emphasis on melody over rock dynamics. In fact, ‘Heightened Senses’ can more accurately be categorised as a slightly woozy, psychedelic pop record rather than a rock album. Make no mistake these are songs that will imprint themselves on your memory, whether through the catchy vocals or the considered melodic guitar leads. It’s definitely the most laid-back Cathode Ray record yet with lead single ‘Another World’ from last year and ‘Days Away’ good examples of the tone of the material.

The other big takeaway, considering that the band’s original aim was to mix the rock and disco scenes of New York in the late 70s, is that ‘Heightened Senses’ is definitely the Cathode Ray album which leans most heavily on the dance half of that origin story. There’s the full-on disco earworm of ‘Love and Death’ (a future single surely) whilst ‘A Difference of Opinion’ shows off some impressive choppy funk guitar. Remarkably there’s even a reggae beat on ‘Before The Rot Sets In’!

As the focus is on dance and pop, the rock moments are limited. The opening, almost metallic riff, of ‘Memories of the Future’ (premiered at last year’s gigs with the Monochrome Set) is something of an outlier as only the grinding guitars of ‘Make Believe’ operate in remotely similar territory.

‘Heightened Senses’ pulls off the neat trick of building on the strengths of the previous records whilst also exploring different ways of expanding the band’s sound. It also completes a trilogy of records from Stereogram this year (see also STOOR and St Christopher Medal) which demonstrates the label’s diversity whilst maintaining their impressive quality control.

The Cathode Ray launch ‘Heightened Senses’ in the Speakeasy, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh on Friday (1 November) with support from STOOR, Roy Moller & The Chain Pier Group and Shock & Awe. The album will be available on CD and vinyl at the launch or from the Stereogram website here.