The Native Cats 'Catspaw / Lemon Juice' 7"

The Native Cats' debut 7" is a masterful work of minimalist pop. Drum machine and bass guitar glide a sneering yet sensual vocal through tales of noir and intrigue. Somewhere between Young Marble Giants, Arab Strap and Joy Division do The Native Cats lie in wait. Most certainly Tasmania's finest export since the devil.

There are 376 copies pressed, each on black vinyl with pro-printed and -glued sleeves. There are 6 test pressings on black vinyl with stamped center stickers in regular sleeves.

01 - Catspaw
02 - Lemon Juice

Still Single:
Nothing but crunchin’ drum machine and bass guitar at the outset of “Catspaw” sounds like nothing else other than “The Model” as performed by Big Black. It goes down a different path, to be sure – vocalist Peter Escott sings his way through some manner of lifestyle espionage like he’s Simon Le Bon, while bassist Julian Teakle holds down a firm, even, hypnotic bass line. The make-believe vibes are out in force here, but these guys seem to be in control; Escott is quite the classy lyricist, and this may have more in common with the Young Marble Giants school of pop minimalism than anyone would admit. Still, there’s very little around like this, and ratchets up their Tasmanian homeland as a training ground for interesting bands (Ninetynine, Sea Scouts). Another finely appointed accessory in the White Denim wardrobe. 370 copies.

Fader Freak Scene:
Two bare-bones songs by Australian duo The Native Cats. The rumbling bass and sparse arrangements immediately give off a post-punk vibe, duh. Those Young Marble Giants comparisons are somewhat dead on. The record isn’t filled wall to wall with sound and it doesn’t need to be; the minimal bass, drum machine and vocal combination are plenty effective and the group uses silence to its advantage. While Young Marble Giants had more of an eerie and/or fragile aura, The Native Cats use silence to emphasize the sound and power of their other elements. The lyrics are sharp, wry and dry if you will. After so many records with lyrics about being bored or lyrics meant to shock (see above), it is really refreshing to hear a band play with words. Things like, All the trouble, you know it’s only here for us, trust the system, push the button just once. Even better considering the whispers that singer, Peter Escott, is autistic. Can someone confirm this? It doesn’t matter, just curious. Either way, I recommend looking up a photo of the two guys, it will blow your mind. Like many great 7-inches before it, the B-side, “Lemon Juice,” is a wee bit superior to the A-side, “Catspaw.” Both songs are total gems though, it’s just that the pitter-patter rhythm and troublemaker lyrics of “Lemon Juice” hit the spot a little more.

Mess + Noise:
Hobart duo Peter Escott and Julian Teakle realise that their minimalist post punk is probably not going to be for everyone. Though not by choice it’s interesting that their first gig two years ago was on Australia Day when most of the country was tuning into triple j’s Hottest 100. Interestingly, its taken a label in Philadelphia to release this 7” single, which features two previously unreleased tracks. With just vocals, bass, drum machine and the odd keyboard, the pair play a barebones punk with sparse arrangements that illuminate Teakle’s rumbling bass and Escott’s fidgety sing/talk/croon. Like Falkirk’s finest sons Arab Strap, The Native Cats sing about the neuroses of life and love. Neuroses that are exacerbated by living in a small city; of knowing that you know everybody else in town that plays a guitar, or that you can’t find good coffee anywhere on a Sunday afternoon. Escott is a lyricist in the truest sense. Some would say a better lyricist than a vocalist. Mind you, the lyrics are abstract and at times cryptic, but you get the sense listening to these two songs that he could be a “writing notes while on public transport” kind of guy. When he sings/talks, “My connections made me and betrayed me once again”, over Teakle’s throbbing dark bass line on ‘Catspaw’, it sounds like it’s emanating from a guy emerging from the shadows to confront the schoolyard bully or chat to the hottest girl at school. Laying his feelings on the line, he will most likely still get punched by the bully or spurned by the girl, but when he sings, “Pull me out of the fire/I’m near enough to burning”, it feels like he’s still a winner. ‘Lemon Juice’ again utilises Teakle’s morose hypnotic bass over a vintage Casiotone drum machine and Escott’s near out-of-tune rantings and downcast romanticism. Escott has said it’s a “cluster of grown ideas; that’s why it’s the B-side.” But B-side or not, like ‘Catspaw’, it makes for a mighty good song.

Impose Magazine:
These boys trade in a shadowy brand of post-punk that's more thought-provoking than brooding, with knowing nods to underground '80s noiseniks and UK gloom-poppers (think Bevis Frond) alike. A wave of garroting drum machine patter opens A-Side "Catspaw" before the band slowly slink into a stuttering groove, with an insistent bass thrum forging a bedrock for lead singer Peter Escott's enigmatic tales of woebegotten espionage. On the flipside, "Lemon Juice" synthesizes the sound of a cache of noteworthy influences, yet, remarkably, with minimal instrumentation and bone-dry arrangements, the duo manage to rewire the sound so completely that listing them doesn't even make sense. It's interesting to note throughout that there's an almost inept suaveness in Escott's vocal delivery/lyrical bromides; he comes on like a cabaret derelict crooning his way through The Birthday Party songbook, re-fashioning and reshaping them to his own peculiar mold.

Maximum Rock N Roll:
The drum machine hits and my hopes sink… But it’s not that bad. Primal, loose post-punk made by some Orstralians, just drums and bass and vocals, YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS style. If Alison Stratton were a dude. There’s an uneasy undertone to these sounds, the discomfort and disconcerting feel that early GANG OF FOUR 7”s impart. It feels like private music, internal and intrusive all at once. I don’t know, this seems like it was right up my street, but it wasn’t for whatever reason. I think it’s the sort of record that a lot of you will get into though, if you like the out-of-body sounds of post-punk disorder.

Released December 2009


White Denim
PO Box 605
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 USA