Album Review: Cancel The Astronauts - Animal Love Match
Cancel the Astronauts are a band that have been featured in many places with an interest in Scottish music. The Edinburgh/Markinch five-piece were invited to play T in the Park in 2011 and in their own words they weren't invited back in 2012. This display of self deprecating humour gives a little insight into their music, which is indie-pop with large doses of infectious hooks. Animal Love Match is the bands first album.
The album kicks off with the title track and given everything I've said above, it's actually quite low key. Synth and guitar kick things off, but rather sparsely. It's quite melancholic, but beautifully so. Matthew Riley's vocal comes in, but from a distant, repeating the title over and over. It all last about 80 seconds before the songs springs into life with a fuller sound, underpinned by thumping drums. There's a pause and then it takes off and it's catchy as hell. Your foot won't stay still. A really great opener that shows a lot of heart and a sense of fun. 'Seven Vices' doesn't waste any time hooking you with a stripped back, fast drum beat and nice guitar line. Again, the beat kicks in and sweeps you along. The guitar melody runs through the whole song, bar a few pauses where the drums take over. It's a quick pace and a great slice of indie-pop. The synths are back on the intro of 'Intervention'. Accompanied by some big drums, the song flies out of the traps. The template is similar to the previous track in terms of the peaks and troughs of the tempo. It's a winning formula I must say. I'm beginning to suspect that these guys are Jesus H Foxx's unruly wee cousins!
The moment that really cemented this as a record worth paying attention to was 'Love Backwards'. Foregoing the more upbeat, frenetic tempo of the opening three tracks, this was initially a more laid back affair. The acoustic intro, with a really nice vocal, felt fresh after the initial assault of tracks one to three. The bass guitar adds some weight, while the electric guitar and drums are only hinted at, before the fuller sound of the band lifts the song up. It sounds fantastic. It grabs you by the lapels, shakes you about and fills you with a contagious rhythm you have not a hope in hell of avoiding. I almost feel sorry for 'Making Dynamite'. Handed the task of coming next on the playlist is not going to be easy. It makes a right good go of it though. Nice drumming on the intro, a New Order-like synth underneath, it's got good things going on. 'Lekking' starts in similar fashion to the opening track. The synth draws out a note, while a guitar strums over the top. Vocally, it's subtly different from previous tracks. Think more Wild Beasts and it's close. It sounds good over the drone of the synth. The two are at odds almost, one dark and low the other light and higher. A fuller sound soon kicks in giving the song a rich, vibrant feel.
'Shapes' signals the start of the second half of the album. A really nice guitar opens the track, while vocals and percussion join in. The song builds slowly on the back of the synth. It builds slowly, but doesn't go for the explosion of sound that featured in the album's earlier songs. It stays firmly low key and more emotionally engaging as a result. It also shows another facet to the bands sound. It does get a little louder, but only for the last 30 seconds or so. The big drums and high tempo are back on 'Promises of Strangers'. Again the synth sounds good, while the bass sounds pretty beefy. The tempo ebbs and flows and the vocals sound really effortlessly cool. Another cracking track. That bass though. There's also a really nice guitar riff near the end that reminded me of Neil Young and that's no bad thing. Nice. 'I See, Uh-huh' flies into orbit from the start. The guitar rises and falls, while the rhythm section skip along in perfect harmony. The band channel Orange Juice on this giddy number.
Crisp drum fills and a rumbling synth and bass dominate the intro of 'While I Was Sleeping'. It's quite an uplifting song, that strays into anthemic territory thanks to the vocal style, rhythm section and that rumbling, grumbling synth. 'Catch You If I Can' changes things up a little. There's some interesting sounds coming from the sythn before a piano sparkles in the electronic gloom. A bass pounds away in the gloom, before the drums start to pick up and the song starts to gather pace. The piano sounds great and thankfully is always prominent, even when the song really starts to pick up. The music all vanishes, leaving the piano and vocal for a few moments before the end and they really shine in that short time. The closing track 'I Sold My Soul (And This Is All I Got)' starts with a really good tempo. The rhythm section is again superb and drags you along for the ride. The guitar adds a bit of colour but the vocal, bass and drums really control things and grab you instantly. It slows down and displays tons of heart and emotion, underlined by some lovely strings. A great end to a great album.
This is overwhelmingly an indie-pop album and it's one of exceedingly good vintage. The majority of the tracks drag you along in their wake. The rhythm section is excellent, but the rest of the pieces are there too. This album is littered with so many hooks that it's bound to catch a fish. It's full of heart, sincerity and downright good fun and for a debut it's excellent. The album is released on September 17th and can be ordered from Bandcamp here.
There are also a few lives dates on the horizon, including the album launch at Sneaky Pete's in Edinburgh on September 15th and an Oxjam gig at Edinburgh's Electric Circus on October 25th.