Every night, at clubs across America, vans pull up to the doors and four or five scrappy-looking guys will come stumbling out, ready to play another show. They hope that people show up, that they sell some merch, and at least come away from the evening with enough gas money to get to the next town. In the hundreds of clubs that are filled up each night, not every band will be memorable. Some will be terrible, some forgotten, other unremarkable and a rare few will be truly stunning.
Black Cat Music is the stereotypical rock band of the new millennium. Lead singer Brady Baltezore sings with a detached, indifferent air that is not unlike Julian Casablancas' smoke- and alcohol-tired voice. Guitarist Travis Dutton plays classic rock guitar as filtered through mid- to late '90s post punk sensibilities. Denny Martin and Omar Perez round out the rhythm section, keeping a steady hand behind the proceedings. From the opening notes of "The Bridal Veil", Black Cat Music evokes the smoky bars and beer stained stages that they've played over the years. October, November, the band's sophomore effort, is steeped with a devil-may-care attitude, reeks with authenticity, yet somehow fails to add up into anything substantial. At its worst, Black Cat Music hearkens back to the days of hair metal, particularly on "Hearts Of Chrome", which sounds like a Motley Crue outtake. "The Suicide Party" is another ordinary, yet rockin' tune that suffers from an intro and outro that bears more than a passing resemblance to Toni Basil's "Mickey". This sort of faux metal, which seems to be making a comeback with the Darkness and Velvet Revolver dominating the charts, quickly gets stale. However, when Black Cat Music hides the well-worn sneers and open up its heart, the results are sublime. "The Jet Trash" and "Thirteen Foot Waves" are shimmery and beautiful, with chiming poppy guitars and Baltezore's dry drawl. While Strokes comparisons are bandied about, particularly relating to these songs, Black Cat Music does manage to make its own sound.
It should be noted how truly puzzling Black Cat Music's one sheet is. These promotional materials are never informative, full of banal pomp and circumstance for their artist being pushed. Usually they offer up comparisons for lazy reviewers to read and hopefully use in their review and for the most part the comparisons are not too far off the mark, but not that inspired either. But what made me do a double-take were some of the groups mentioned on Black Cat Music's one sheet: At The Drive-In? (International) Noise Conspiracy? The Misfits? The Clash? These are all impressive names, but I have to wonder if the PR people at Lookout! bothered to listen to this sheet.
It is interesting to see that when the band steps away from the tired path of consciously apathetic rock 'n' roll, the songs become better. "The Jet Trash" and "Thirteen Foot Waves" are executed with a depth that is missing on the rest of the album, indicating that there is a much better band hiding behind the majority of this material.