Absolutely overdue freshly issued collection of hits from cult Aussie jangle-pop band The Cat’s Miaow, including faves ‘Not Like I Was Doing Anything’ and the proto-Beach House burner ‘What Time Is It There’. Essential listening for anyone into Talulah Gosh/Heavenly, The Pastels, Black Tambourine or The Vaselines.
You’d be forgiven from having missed The Cat’s Miaow first time around. Formed in Melbourne in the early 1990s, the four-piece (comprised of vocalist Kerrie Bolton, bassist Andrew Withycombe, guitarist Bart Cummings and drummer Cameron Smith) were assembled from various members of the city’s indie sprawl. Kerrie sang in The Beat Poets and Tra La La, Andrew played in The Ampersands and with Bart in Blairmailer, and Bart in Library Records and with Cameron in Girl of the World. Between 1992 and 1999, they recorded a slew of pristine DIY pop music that felt like an antipodean answer to the UK’s post-C86 Sarah Records sound – twee and rugged, but emotionally destructive. “Songs ’94-’98” sweeps up most of the band’s best tracks, and the majority of those included on 1997’s beloved comp “Songs For Girls To Sing” – out of print for far too long, these songs should help to re-establish The Cat’s Miaow as an important part of the jangle canon.
The comp lays out its intentions with ‘Hollow Inside’, a track from the band’s “How Did Everything Get So Fucked Up” tape that quickly solidifies their DIY sound. Recorded on Andrew’s portable 4-track recorder, it’s lo-fi without the contrived intention – The Cat’s Miaow weren’t trying to ape a sound, they were doing what they could at the time, and it just happened to come out this way. ‘Not Like I Was Doing Anything’ is snipped from the same session, and remains one of the band’s best-loved tracks, sounding like a precursor to Belle and Sebastian’s “Tigermilk” or a contemporary of Heavenly’s brilliant “The Decline and Fall of Heavenly”. ‘What Time Is It There?’, taken from the “I Kept All Your Letters” 7″, is the oddest track on the collection, replacing drums and guitars with overdriven organ and blown-out electronic beats and signaling towards Beach House’s woozy indie-lounge experiments. It also telegraphs the band’s later (completely essential) electronic-focused work as Hydroplane.
Another highlight is the moody ‘Shoot the Moon’, taken from The Cat’s Miaow’s Wurlitzer Jukebox-released split with Stereolab, all submerged, reverberating drums and dual vocals from Kerrie and Bart. The band’s later material found their sound flux into near-ambient territory, like the smudgy organ-led ‘Barney & Me’ and the gusty ‘LA International Airport’. It’s music that still sounds crucial now, linking the post-C86 jangle of bands like The Pastels with the techno-aware shoegaze of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine.
A phenomenal collection of music “Songs ’94-’98” re-establishes The Cat’s Miaow as an important part of both the Aussie indie scene and the general jangle-pop canon – whether you’re into The Vaselines or more recent revivalists like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it’s an essential listen.