Today I'm bringing you an EP that meant a lot to me right around my 21st birthday. At the time I still had the factory tape deck in my car so I dubbed a copy which was rarely ejected. I put songs on countless mixtapes, I listened to the CD at home making up guitar riffs based on the songs (totally ripping them off for my band...), and I forced them down anyone who'd listen's throat. I even picked up the 12" version which had two less songs. I was pretty obsessed. It didn't hurt that one of the guys in the band looked a lot like someone I was totally in love with.
At the time of this passionate listening affair Black Cat Music had yet to be signed to Lookout! so there's was little awareness of these guys. They were my band. They were dark and whiskey-soaked, much like I felt at the time...or was...there was a lot of whiskey around this time in my life...okay, I admit, whiskey is a definite theme in my life so let's just say it started here.
What little I knew I learned from their website; they were from San Francisco, they were comprised of former members of the Criminals and the Receivers. They were awesome. What I know now is that they released one more EP for Cheetah and then 3 albums for Lookout! before disbanding in 2004. I'm gonna say that signing to Lookout! was the death knell in their chances for anyone to take them seriously. I advise you to look past the label and check out all their releases, they're terribly overlooked.
This is the New Romance was their debut EP and was released on the apparently defunct Cheetah's Records in 1998. It made it's way over to me in 1999.
Black Cat Music sounds a little like a younger, sexier Murder City Devils. They're dark in all the right places. They know when to show their smarts and when to play it dumb. And oh, the basslines, your ears will be all sexed up by those baselines.
This EP sounds exactly like being drunk on whiskey with a broken heart, but you've got a fresh pack of cigarettes and your best friend, so you'll make it through the night.
The opening licks of "Lloyd, I Would Have Done the Same" just take off at lightspeed and finally breakdown just enough for you to catch up before they take off once again. The guitar work is beyond what you would expect of most "punk" oriented bands. "Journal Square Train" carries the vibe into a swagger of forbidden love. "This is the new romance", singer Brady Baltezore repeats almost as to convince himself that he will win out in the end. "Cut You Up Good" borders on filler but is kept to a short 2:08 as not to take the flow of the EP off track. There is a great breakdown at the end and is defintely not to be skipped.
"Red Velvet and Roses" has it all, the rocking riffs, the intense breakdowns, the dark imagery. It's the story of two lovers up to no good" "sneak[ing] around like two black cats at night". "Wine in a Box" is without a doubt my favorite track on this disc. It starts off with a sample taken from the Dylan documentary Don't Look Back:
"So the bearded boys and the lank-haired girls, all eye shadow and undertaker makeup, applaud the songs and miss perhaps the sermons. They are there; they are ‘with it'."
This was a reporter who was phoning in his review of Dylan's concert immediately after it ended. There is no connection between Bob Dylan and Black Cat Music, so this was obviously playing on the idea of the "undertaker makeup" line.
The song kicks in and almost immediately levels off. And at once we're hit with a request to "get high on your sister's pills". This is a song about young love and the cheapest of thrills, which was highly appealing to me at the time. In 2000, this is what I believed San Francisco to be like all pale faces, tattoos, black hair and being wasted. (I went, it wasn't...it was bookstores and peepshows.) But to this day this song gives me a rush.
"Haunted Hotel Colorado" is a good send off though I must admit that I get a bit of a lump in my throat listening to it...as though I'm dreading having to hit rewind on my tape deck. Fortunately, I can set my iPod to repeat album.
Make some of the Black Cat Music for me, indeed.
Black Cat Music are no longer around but you can visit their myspace, you can try to track down a copy of this EP, or buy any of their more recent releases from Lookout!
Hear it HERE.