The Cathode Ray Press

PRAISE FOR “INFINITE VARIETY”:
Infinite Variety front cover 618 x 618
“An album of consistently inventive, invigorating and infectious tracks. If you haven’t already heard it, do yourself a favour and give it a spin.” – LOUDER THAN WAR

“Infinite Variety is quite breath-taking, leaving thoughts basking and appetite hungry for much more. There have been many releases and bands recently creating real triumphs of nostalgia and new invention, but The Cathode Ray tops the lot” – THE RINGMASTER REVIEW

“One of the LPs of 2015 so far has undoubtedly been ‘Infinite Variety’ the second album from Edinburgh’s The Cathode Ray.” – MANIC POP THRILLS

“Intelligent rock music written for an adult audience, and, as creative as it is genre-defying, is never anything but enthralling” – PENNY BLACK MUSIC

“Infinite Variety certainly lives up to its promise” – EXPLODING HEAD SYNDROME

“An urgent, engaging sophomore offering from a band that effortlessly blends musical maturity with the fizz and buzz of prime guitar pop” – IS THIS MUSIC?

“Infinite Variety is an exhilarating roller-coaster ride through a multifaceted post-punk landscape.” – MANIC POP THRILLS

“It’s perhaps not surprising that ‘Infinite Variety’ is such a confident, expansive creation…test tube treats for pop conceptualists.” – LOUDER THAN WAR

“Definitely worth checking out” – BEAT ROUTE

“Backed Up settles into such a rich – and entirely harmonious – instrumental groove that you won’t want it to end.” – PURE M MAGAZINE

“The second album from Edinburgh’s Cathode Ray is a thing of natural beauty” – THE HERALD

“What makes this quintessentially British art-pop so thrilling, however, is the slow shift from themes of desperation and loss to an ultimate realisation of love, identity and purpose” – THE SKINNY

“At one level it is the natural extension of the last record; at another its boundaries have been greatly magnified.” – PENNY BLACK MUSIC
“Their sound is difficult to Resist” – DAILY RECORD

“If such an award exists, Stereogram surely must be in the running for best Scottish independent label in 2015.” – FOR MALCONTENTS ONLY

“The momentum remains relentless throughout, refusing to slow down for even a single moment” – PURE M MAGAZINE

“It is a delightful indie-pop-punk romp. Bouncy guitars, a poppy bass line and the kind of drums that should be played by a monkey with ADHD” – LISTEN WITH MONGER

“Jittery and angular with a retro futurist twist. Post punk like it’s supposed to sound, performed by experts” – TASTY FANZINE

“Its incurably addictive kookiness prompting the hitting of the repeat button each and every time in looms into ear space” – THE SUNDAY EXPERIENCE
PennyBlackLOGO
Artist: The Cathode Ray
Title: Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 13/11/2016
Category: Live Reviews
Author: John Clarkson
Date Published: 07/12/2016

At one level local band the Cathode Ray sound as angst-torn as ever at tonight’s gig at the Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms in support of the Monochrome Set. They have, however, an air also of jubilation. There is a sense of triumph about them, of a job well done.

“Evening all,” barks front man, guitarist and songwriter Jeremy Thoms to a busy crowd as the Cathode Ray stridently launch into their first song, ‘Backed Up’.

Tonight’s show is their last gig to promote ‘Infinite Variety’, their second album, which came out eighteen months before.

‘Infinite Variety’ has been a step-up at every level from its fine 2012 eponymous predecessor which was a 70’s-inspired album, marrying the sound of New York acts such as Lou Reed and Television with those of Mancurian outfits such as Joy Division, Magazine and the early Fall. ‘Infinite Variety’ – as its spectacular cover art which has photos over forty species of rare flowers and plants on it suggests – has, however, a much broader canvas, incorporating, as well as punk and new wave, elements of psychedelia, glam rock, Euro disco, krautrock and 90’s alternative pop.

Touring has always been a problem for this group of late 40/early 50 somethings. Thoms, a late second-time father, still has a young child at home; lead guitarist Steve Fraser is a much in-demand session guitarist; bassist Neil Baldwin is holding down a demanding job and drummer David Mack moved to Teeside a few years ago. They have, however, managed fifteen gigs with ‘Infinite Variety’, which has seen them for the first time break out of the Edinburgh/Glasgow belt and take in cities and venues from Dundee to Leeds and Middlesborough to a Pennyblackmusic Bands Night in London.
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Thoms’ label Stereogram Recordings, which is promoting tonight’s gig, has also since that first album taken off, signing established acts such as the Band of Holy Joy, James King & The Lonewolves and Roy Moller as well as new bands such as the Eastern Swell and the Unfortunates.

The Cathode Ray and Jeremy Thoms have come a long way with this album.

They have always dealt with what lies beneath the surface, the paranoia, self-doubts and distorted truths that bubble underneath seemingly placid facades. There is plenty of that in tonight’s set which is split fairly evenly between songs from ‘Infinite Variety’ – ‘Backed Up’, ‘Buck the Trend’, ‘Resist’, ‘The Eyes are the Window to the Soul’ and ‘Force of Nature’ – and the earlier LP – ‘Slipping Away’, ‘Lost and Found’ and ‘Around’.

Their forty-five minute set goes down well with the audience, many of whom have come out to see the Cathode Ray as much as they have the Monochrome Set, and some of whom seem to know every word.
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Thoms and the usually more taciturn Fraser, both of whom are smartly-dressed for the occasion in shirt and ties, meanwhile joke with each other and the audience in between numbers. The always dapper Thoms complains at one point about his nylon shirt sticking to him, and someone shouts from the crowd, “Granny’s curtains” to a large roar of laughter from both the audience and the stage.

It all ends with a blistering version of the Cathode Ray’s first single, ‘What It’s All About?’, which Thoms reminds the audience came out on ten years ago that month before the band leave the stage.

As with ‘The Cathode Ray’, there will be an extensive period of hibernation between now and a third album, which they will work on as family, record company and work commitments and location problems will allow them. It may be as late as 2018 before that next album and we see them on a stage together again. Tonight’s show has been very much a statement of where they are now and where they have come from with no new material played. It remains to be seen they will be able to come up with a front cover as striking and imaginative such as that of ‘Infinite Variety’ again. Tracks are already been demoed for the third album, and much as ‘Infinite Variety’ was it will be undoubtedly very much worth the long wait.

Photographs by Jane Barnes
Is This Music Logo
THE MONOCHROME SET / THE CATHODE RAY
GLASGOW STEREO (SATURDAY 12 NOVEMBER)
By Betty Mayonnaise • Nov 18th, 2016 • Category: gig reviews

A nice double-bill – two bands with a strong and stylish pedigree in a slightly empty venue for a Saturday but there is a lot else on this weekend and gig choices are many.

BM’s only previous exposure to The Cathode Ray was a gig inside LoveMusic on Record Store Day maybe 5 or 6 years ago, acoustic by necessity, given the size of the place.
It was very good and the band are again extremely good tonight. There is a recent album to plug and they get a good nine songs which as a support is pretty generous.

This is classic pop/rock of the sort the Beatles originated and people like Richard Hawley are still doing well, and The Cathode Ray do it too, channeling Lou Reed in a good mood via The Orange Juice and possibly even Neil Hannon, given the slightly anglicised vocal style. Starting with ‘Backed Up’, a stuttering rocker, and moving onto the newest material like “‘Eyes are the Window’, there is no shortage of guitar licks, solos, basslines and tasty vocal couplets.
The four piece (classic guitar/vocals, bass, lead guitar and drums) and led by Jeremy Thoms, are slick, nimble and all still have full heads of hair, not bad for guys who have been in and around the Scottish music scene for quite some time. Their history with other projects could merit a paragraph in itself. The highlight for BM was ‘Around’, a transcendent melody and chord progression overlaid with riffs, warm and oozing something kinda ooh – yep that was the one. A worthy support act, and by the end of the set BM had been joined by a few others up front to applaud them.
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BM’s history with “The Set” (which no one ever calls them) goes back a good 30 plus years to when, in short trousers, a pinafore, or something like, that BM heard this lot on Peel and trilled along to yon local record shoppe to purchase ‘Volume Contrast Brilliance’, a compilation of their first few albums, and has loved them ever since.
Formed in the late 70s, they took the usual post punk route of Peel session, tours, singles, albums etc – there were no actual hits in that period but a subsequent major label deal pushed them hard and the track ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ became a sort of hit in the early MTV years, something not played tonight and probably best forgotten.
After more bruising major label action, the band split and largely went to ground, then emerging bit by bit as original singer/guitarist Bid and fairly original bass player Andy Warren with, eventually tonight, a drummer and a keyboard player who BM is not going to hazard a name as they are quite new!

The band have released four albums since 2010 though (several with original guitarist Lester Square, great name and now sadly departed TMS) – tonight we set a slew a new material from that era plus a smattering from the “classic” era, a good 16 songs. They are not a heritage act, and listening with a fresh ear BM hears The Doors, French chanson, Brel, Momus, bloody hell (not a band)…

Bid looks like he has a Dorian Gray-esque picture in the attic, one of these guys who almost looks better with age, and very distinguished, and with his arch manner he goes about charming the audience, now a bit larger although still about half full, a shame really. The band is tight, although the dress code is a bit looser than the black jeans black shoes, shirt and quiff of The Cathode Ray, these guys look and behave as if they are in four different bands, although they play well together and obviously enjoy it.

First out of the traps oldie ‘Eine Symphonie…’ is enhanced by the keyboard player’s deep backing vocals, while lead track on the latest album ‘Cosmonaut’ sounds very good. It is however for the oldies that BM is here, and it is truly amazing to groove to ‘Alphaville’ and pogo to ‘The Jet Set Junta’, a song as relevant today as back in the early 80s, please have a listen if you don’t know it…
There were some mariachi stylings on a couple more songs, ‘Cowboy Country’, BM thinks, and as the proverbial curtain came down around 10pm (“bumped by a Spice Girls tribute night” quipped Bid, actually an R&B night, but never mind…) they threw us the titular ‘The Monochrome Set, another blazing blast from all our pasts.

So onto Edinburgh tomorrow for them… They have been quite regular visitors here the last wee while, and long may Bid continue to inflict his acid humour on the audience – “I don’t know what you’re saying, are you from Birmingham..?” being one of the best. BM has had Q&A with him and wishes him and his merrie men well – a bientot guys…
PennyBlackLOGO
Artist: The Cathode Ray
Title: Basic Mountain, Edinburgh, 26/3/2016
Category: Live Reviews
Author: John Clarkson
Date Published: 15/05/2016
@Basic Mountain 1
“You’re not really meant to get on the stage,” says Cathode Ray front man, Jeremy Thoms.

There is a very drunk girl in the audience tonight at Basic Mountain. She has arrived with two equally sloshed male chaperones halfway through the Cathode Ray’s set, and they start to throw themselves around with some abandon in front of the stage. One of the men at one point rolls around on the floor and plays air guitar, and the girl, like a baby attracted to something bright and shiny, determinedly steps twice on to the stage to try and take Thoms’ microphone off him. On both occasions, he politely but firmly swats her away.

Both the Cathode Ray and Thoms’ with his Stereogram Recordings label have never been afraid to take risks, and tonight’s gig is full of them. The choice of venue in Basic Mountain is unconventional to say the least, a performance space and white room which has never been used for a gig. The Cathode Ray’s choice of co-headliner is also unusual – STOOR, a sturdy and as-it turns-out first-rate group of noise rockers from Dundee who have never played an Edinburgh gig before. There is also no bar as such, just a makeshift, small table wedged in next to Basic Mountain’s kitchen in which one can buy wine in paper cups and beer and soft drinks by the can.
@Basic Mountain 2
Yet all this works well for the Cathode Ray. The bar, reminiscent of an earlier, less complicated era, has its own 70’s-style charm, and any misgivings about the suitability of the venue are swiftly dispensed as the Cathode Ray kick into gear. Thoms’ and Steve Fraser’s razor-tight guitars, which swing from edgy post-punk to hazy psychedelia to discordant rock, and Neil Baldwin’s booming bass surge and bounce off the Basic Mountain’s high ceiling. Thom’s trademark clipped vocals, which tell of dysfunction, paranoia and breakdown, have an echo, and David Mack’s fiery percussion crackles against the long walls. Even the drunks down the front curiously still trying to upstage them, as the audience soon becomes bored with their antics, can’t detract away from how powerful the Cathode Ray are tonight. It finishes all too soon at the end of forty-five minutes, after the anthemic ‘This Force of Nature’ from their second and latest album ‘Infinite Variety’, with earlier songs, the breathless ‘Get A Way’, and 2006 first single, ‘What’s it All About?’
@Basic Mountain 3
Things are looking up for the Cathode Ray. They are playing their first London show for Pennyblackmusic as one of Thoms’ occasional Stereogram nights with label mates the Band of Holy Joy and Roy Moller in April, and there are healthy support slots with B-Movie and the Monochrome Set later in the year. Tonight the audience leave having witnessed something from both them and the powerhouse STOOR very special.

Set List:
Lost and Found
Resist
Slipping Away
It Takes One to Know One
Backed Up
Train
The Eyes are the Window to the Soul
Around
This Force of Nature
Get a Way
What’s It All About?

Photos by Mike Melville
Blaue Rosen
BLAUEROSEN – A place dedicated to inspiring music. 14th April 2016
THE CATHODE RAY – An Introduction

The Cathode Ray, a.k.a Jeremy Thoms (vocals, guitar, keyboards), David Mack (drums and percussion), Steve Fraser (guitars) and Neil Baldwin (bass), have released two albums on Stereogram, their eponymous debut album in 2012 and ‘Infinite Variety’ in 2015. Having started with clear references to America’s 60s music, the band has enriched their sound immensely on the second release. ‘Infinite Variety’ might have artwork that brings to mind psych rock, but the overall atmosphere reveals that the band’s references lie elsewhere. Neil Baldwin and Jeremy Thoms have played music together in the past in the bands A Girl Called Johnny (1986), and Paparazzi (1987),so they have common points of reference based in common experiences.

This is an aspect that has a positive role to play in the impression that the band leaves as a whole. You will probably ‘see’ Lou Reed appearing through the notes of ‘Nowhere At All’ and feel the influence of David Bowie and the glam rock scene in ‘Creature of Habit’. Percussion play a major role in the atmosphere of The Cathode Ray in general and this has become more evident in the second album where the garage, psych rock and punk influences blend with electrically charged guitar trembles and lyrical suspensions and vocals. It wouldn’t be unjustified, if for a fleeting moment the music of The Beach Boys and the pop music of the 90s (i.e. ‘Resist’, Don’t Waste Your Words’, ‘This Force of Nature’) came to your mind.

The band’s live appearances have been occasionally accompanied by visuals and their official videos reveal both a fascination for psychedelia imagery (‘Resist’) and references to Arte Povera movement ( ‘Backed Up’ video). As in all Stereogram Recordings albums, the sound is clear and deep in both the vocals and the instruments. There is neither a musician nor an instrument that I have not been able to identify in any of the albums of any of the bands and I think this has a lot to say about the quality of music that is being produced.
Manic Pop Thrills
MANIC POP THRILLS – Alternative (sic) music of the last 30 years

THIS IS ONLY GOING TO GET LOUDER
STOOR / The Cathode Ray – Basic Mountain, Edinburgh – Saturday 26th March 2016

Frustrated by the difficulties of getting someone else to put them on in Edinburgh, STOOR took matters into their own hands and put on Saturday night’s show all by themselves. A little bit of MPT band matchmaking later and I had the chance to see two of my favourite bands playing decent length sets in the one go.

The venue was something of an unusual one. The front door looked like the door to a domestic property and it was only by following the noise up a turning staircase that you entered a very attractive arts space which apparently had never before hosted a rock show.

Although it’s a comparatively small room it has a high ceiling and with a PA brought in for the show the sound had something of a wild edge. Which is not necessarily a bad thing – so long as it doesn’t go too far.

First up were the home team and the Cathode Ray weren’t troubled by any sound problems.Certainly there was quite a lot of Steve’s guitar in the mix but never to the detriment of Jeremy’s vocals.

The set lent slightly more on the debut than on last year’s ‘Infinite Variety’. Which meant that there were plenty of old favourites on offer including a scorching version of ‘Train’.

Of the newer stuff ‘This Force of Nature’ made its long overdue live debut whilst ‘It Takes One To Know One‘, the Ray’s new contribution to the Sound of Stereogram’ compilation, also got an impressive outing.

It’s when you consider what they didn’t play that you realise just how many great songs they have. And MPT acknowledges that they can’t play everything in 50 minutes but, still, a point deducted for not playing ‘Saving Grace’. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable! 😉

I can’t really leave this performance though without referring to the, um, dancers (two couples) who turned up midway through the set and threw themselves about with some abandon. One woman in particular seemed particularly out of it and at every opportunity seemed determined to take the stage to take the mic in the way that a toddler might. It was a little bit bizarre to say the least.

The Cathode Ray played:

Lost & Found 2. Resist 3. Slipping Away 4. It Takes One To Know One 5. Backed Up 6. Train 7. The Eyes Are The Window To The Soul 8. Around 9. This Force of Nature 10. Get A Way 11. What’s It All About?
@Basic Mountain 1
Like the Cathode Ray, STOOR’s set demonstrated just how many great songs they have with the set showcasing not just highlights from the album but also old and new tunes.

In those two categories highlights included the revived ‘Johnny Appleseed’ and the completely new ‘Atrocities’ whilst ‘Frack’ remains a particular favourite of mine. Along with, to be fair, pretty much everything else.

Scott’s spent most of the intervening days since the show apologising for how loud it was and to be fair it was probably the loudest STOOR show I’ve seen. Yet, as you might expect if you’ve heard the LP, that wild edge suited them especially well and it was probably one of the best shows I’ve seen them do.

STOOR played:

1.March of the Molluscs 2. Aye No 3. Liberator 4. Hold That Thought 5. Johnny Appleseed 6. Frack 7. Atrocities 8. The Dig 9. Theme from STOOR 10. Infect Me 10. Witchfinder 11. Sure Beats Me

All going to plan the rematch will take place some time in the autumn in Dundee.
Manic Pop Thrills
WORTH THE WAIT by MIKE MELVILLE in MANIC POP THRILLS, May 2015.
Voodoos 21
The Cathode Ray / A Modern Masquerade – ‘Infinite Variety’ LP Launch – The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh – Thursday 14th May 2015

One of my regrets over the last few years is that I’d not managed to catch the Cathode Ray live properly. Certainly last month’s Record Store Day performance was pretty good but I didn’t manage to catch a proper Cathode Ray show until Thursday’s album launch at the Voodoo Rooms. It was worth the wait.

‘Infinite Variety’ is already one of my favourite albums of the year drawing on the band’s post-punk influences but mixing these up with a range of new influences so it was no surprise that the live show was just as good mixing old songs and new.

‘Backed Up’ is an effective first track on the record and its live incarnation worked at least as well to open the show. The low key intro drew the audience in for that exquisite technicolour explosion midway through. The band were off and running immediately launched into their recent, frantic, single ‘Resist’.

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The rest of the set drew from both albums and the first (non-LP) single, ably demonstrating that the Cathode Ray have plenty of great material to fit into an hour.

Both sides of the debut single were given an airing with set closer ‘What’s It All About?’ sounding massive and several levels above the recorded version. Choice cuts from the debut LP included a ferocious ‘Patience Is A Virtue’ and the wonderful ‘Train’ whilst, of the new material, ‘Don’t Waste Your Words’ and ‘Nowhere At All’ were highlights.

It was still a bit of a surprise that some of my favourite tracks from the new record didn’t make the cut – no ‘Buck The Trend’ nor ‘This Force of Nature’ (both surely candidates for future singles) whilst the biggest disappointment was that epic album closer ‘Saving Grace’ wasn’t included (its absence apparently due to the band not having quite nailed it in rehearsals yet.)

It helps of course to have such an experienced all round band but there’s no doubting the key role that be-shaded guitarist Steve Fraser plays on stage. Whilst his parts were based on those on the record they certainly weren’t intended to replicate it note for note lending the show a little bit of unpredictability.

Called back to the stage after ‘What’s It All About?’, Jeremy admitted that they’d played all the songs that they knew so the band ripped through an impressive repeat of ‘Resist’ to finish.

This may have been the band’s first gig in two and a half years but it certainly didn’t show and I certainly hope it won’t be long before I get the chance to catch them live again.

The Cathode Ray setlist:

1. Backed Up 2. Resist 3. Lost and Found 4. The Eyes Are The Window To The Soul 5. Train 6. Don’t Waste Your Words 7. Around 8. Mind 9. Patience Is A Virtue 10. Nowhere At All 11. Get A Way 12. What’s It All About? Encore:13. Resist

PennyBlackLOGO
“INFINITE VARIETY” Album review in PENNY BLACK MUSIC by JOHN CLARKSON, May 2015.

The Edinburgh-based based alternative rock outfit, the Cathode Ray, have released one of the stand-out albums of the year with their second long-player, ‘Infinite Variety’.

Its front cover has a gorgeous close-up photo of a group of orange-red flowers. On the inner and back panel panels of the sleeve, in a riot of both colour and versatility, are revealed smaller photos of over another forty species of flowers and plants.

The lavishness of the sleeve serves as a symbol for the music on ‘Infinite Variety’, which is equally imaginative and vibrant.

The Cathode Ray’s fine 2012 self-titled debut married the sounds of 70’s New York acts such as the Velvet Underground and Television with those of 70’s Mancurian outfits such as Joy Division, Magazine and the Fall.

‘Infinite Variety’, as its title suggests, has a much more extensive blueprint, pushing to the fore across its eleven tracks in quick fire succession as well elements of psychedelia, glam rock, Euro disco, krautrock and 90’s alternative pop.

Those 70’s new wave and post-punk influences are still very much present on ‘Infinite Variety’, often lingering not far from the surface, such as on the slow-building, menacing opening number ‘Backed Up’, which starts with metallic, tinkling percussion, a swirling bass line and a typically brooding vocal from front man Jeremy Thoms (“Backed up against the wall/The odds stack up against all the time”) before Steve Fraser’s scuzzy, psychedelic guitar eventually takes over.

‘Don’t Waste Your Words’ mixes a jangling late 1970’s new wave guitar line with the stomping glam rock sound of half a decade earlier, while ‘Torn Apart’ –about a break-up – is at heart a crooned late 50’s or early-60’s ballad in the style of the Righteous Brothers but is whipped up into an echoing, feedback-driven shoegazing number.

There has always been a deliberately sinister, unsettling sense of ambiguity to much of Jeremy Thoms’ work, and this again surfaces on ‘Infinity Variety’. “Invite some chaos into your life/Go ahead and buck your trend,” he sneers on the playful ‘Buck Your Trend’, which combines Krautrock beats with the angular, waspish guitars of Talking Heads’, but one is left unsure, because of the off-kilter, scattergun nature of its tune, whether this will ultimately be something for the good or the bad.

‘Eureka Moment!’, which makes David Mack’s clattering, tribal drums the prominent instrument and throws in an undercurrent of shimmering Euro disco , toys again with the listener and is even more disturbing still. “Rising from the mire/Simply my eureka moment/Dance on the funeral pyre,” leers Thoms. By the time one gets after this to the next track, ‘Force of Nature’, seemingly the most poppy and upbeat song on the album, one is left questioning whether as surface appearances seem it is a conventional love song (“Love is the sword/By which we live or die/Now whether you’re winning or losing my friend/It will be your beginning and it will be your end”) or whether it is more ambivalent.

This is all brought to a head with the two-part seven-minute closing number, ‘Saving Grace’, which, in an already strong catalogue, is the Cathode Ray’s best moment to date. It begins as a tender, gently crooned Edwyn Collins-type love ballad (You take away the pain/You take away the fear/Saving grace of my life/Sweet saving grace of my life”). As it moves into its second part, the music becomes increasingly dark, concluding in a stormy rush of guitars. “Don’t go! No, no”/Oh! I don’t want to go. No, no,” howls Thoms, implying that this seemingly perfect romance is already starting to fall apart.

‘Infinite Variety’ suggests that there are few certainties in the world, that there is little that is either simply black or white, and as Lou Reed said in the concluding lines of his last great album ‘Magic and Loss’ that “there’s a bit of magic in everything/And then some loss to even things out.” It is intelligent rock music written for an adult audience, and, as creative as it is genre-defying, is never anything but enthralling.

Manic Pop Thrills
JEREMY THOMS Interviewed by MIKE MELVILLE for MANIC POP THRILLS. May 2015

Jeremy 1

One of the LPs of 2015 so far has undoubtedly been ‘Infinite Variety’ the second album from Edinburgh’s The Cathode Ray.

Initially formed as a songwriting partnership between Paul Haig and Jeremy Thoms, Haig departed before their debut self-titled album was released.

However the band continued after his departure and now comprises Jeremy (guitar and vocals), Steve Fraser (guitars), Neil Baldwin (bass) and David Mack (drums).

With the new album officially released a couple of weeks back, the band are gearing up for the launch show at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on Thursday 14th May. Ahead of that show Jeremy talked to MPT about all things Cathode Ray.

The excellent debut was loosely based around a concept of mixing the music emanating from both Manchester and New York in the late 70s and I wondered if the band had approached the second album with some form of goal in mind.

“If there was any initial concept for the second album, it was that it would have to be different from the first – broader, bolder and a definite progression – otherwise there was little point in making it.

“I decided upon the title fairly early on in the process, so that certainly spurred things on in terms of the concept of variety. It was only in the final stages when the running order was decided upon that we noticed there was this lyrical subtext going on (from adversity to redemption) albeit, again, very loosely.”

The circumstances surrounding ‘Infinite Variety’ were significantly different as Jeremy explained.

“First and foremost these songs were all written by myself, whereas eight of the tracks on the previous album were co-writes with Paul (Haig). But apart from that, as mentioned above, this is a much broader canvas where restrictions we might have applied before have been completely lifted.”

In terms of songwriting Jeremy is clearly the driving force behind the songs but he’s quick to credit the role that his bandmates play in developing the song

Jeremy & Steve

“I usually bring in new songs to rehearsals in a reasonably finished demo form with basic arrangements, riffs, lyrics and so on all in place. Some songs like “Resist”, “Buck The Trend” and “Nowhere At All” remain fairly close to the original demo, but others – “Backed Up”, “The Eyes Are The Window” and “Saving Grace” in particular – developed a lot in the rehearsal room, especially with Steve’s guitar parts.

“But everyone contributes something to each tune, so that’s why I credit the whole band with arrangements.”

Pushed on the important songs for him on the album, Jeremy again returns to that theme of musical progression.

“That’s a very tricky question to answer, as they’re all my babies and I love them equally! But I guess if push comes to shove I’d probably have to say “Backed Up” and “Saving Grace” as I suppose they both represent the biggest leap forward from the first album in terms of melodies, structure and arrangement.”

The first album came out in 2012 but I suspected that a lot of it had been written much earlier. Jeremy confirmed that and explained that the songwriting for the two records had overlapped to a significant extent.

“The earliest completed songs were “Buck The Trend” and “Eureka Moment” which were initially written and demoed as far back as 2009. “This Force Of Nature” had its origins in a completely different form even earlier. But we had more than enough material for the first album, so we held them back for this one.

“The rest of the songs were written between 2011 and 2013. But I’m always ahead of myself. I’ve already got around a half dozen new songs down in some shape or form for the next one.”

It seems to be harder than ever these days to get a record noticed so, even with a lot of favourable reviews for ‘Infinite Variety’ behind them, the Cathode Ray are looking at other methods of promoting the record beyond traditional live shows.

“We’re working on a series of videos to accompany it with a director friend of mine called Jez Curnow.

“The original plan was to make one for every track, but we realised that was a bit over ambitious. There’s still going to be around six or seven made.

““Resist” was the first completed and another two which were shot in the Kings Theatre (“This Force Of Nature” and “Saving Grace”) should be up on YouTube by the time this article is published.

“On the live front, we’re officially launching the album at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on May 14th, with other gigs dotted around the country being slotted in over the coming months, including some supports to The Band Of Holy Joy who release their new album on Stereogram in September.

“Otherwise, the plan is to release two more singles from the album with videos to match – the first “Buck The Trend” is due 1st June.

“Finally, there’ll be an EP of dance remixes by DJ and web designer Tony McQue. He’s already done “Resist” and it’s pretty radical! That’ll surprise a few folk.”

The band haven’t been active as a live unit for much of the last couple of years only emerging from hibernation for a special Record Store Day show at Elvis Shakespeare. The spell of inactivity came about for fairly pragmatic reasons.

“We had gigged fairly solidly between April 2010 and December 2012 so we just felt it would be good to take a break from that and concentrate on the new album.

“The forthcoming shows will feature material from 2006 right up to “Infinite Variety”, so we’ve got a good pool of songs to choose from. Also, our video director Jez (Curnow) is working on some visuals as a backdrop, so people can expect something a bit different on that front too.”

Neil & Dave

I’m always curious about how bands see themselves within the wider, disparate Scottish music scene and Jeremy has an interesting take on that particular question.

“To be perfectly honest we feel we’re operating pretty much in our own field. Obviously we have a certain kindred spirit with the other acts on Stereogram, but everyone is doing their own individual thing so it’s more spiritual than musical.”

I don’t think it’s unfair to describe the Cathode Ray as veterans and I was curious as to what keeps Jeremy writing and making music.

“I don’t know – madness?! Seriously though, the songs and ideas just keep on coming. I’ve always loved music, both as a listener and a creator. It’s certainly not about the money, so if it ever became a chore and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, I would stop. But I feel like I’m just hitting my stride now so I reckon I’ve got a few more albums in me yet.”

Finally, for a little bit of fun I asked Jeremy which other current acts he’s like to see play a Stereogram organised one day festival, if availability and cash were not issues. He came up with an ambitious list!

“I’d divide it into a couple of sections: to represent the current state of play I’d have some of the youngish bands that have impressed me most in recent years: namely The Horrors, Toy, Tame Impala and Pond (the latter two are virtually the same band so that would be easy logistically). I love what these bands do with their slightly twisted takes on psychedelia, synth and kraut rock.

“Then I’d have a selection of favourite bands from the past who are still treading the boards, but remain currently relevant to my mind: Wire, The High Llamas, Teenage Fanclub, New Order and The Flaming Lips. I reckon that would make a pretty amazing lineup!”

The Ringmaster Review
“INFINITE VARIETY” Album review in THE RINGMASTER REVIEW by PETE RING, April 2015

The energy around the arrival of and anticipation for Infinite Variety, the second album from Scottish band The Cathode Ray, ensured that intrigue and enthusiasm of a great many was high going into the release. It is fair to say that the proposition not only lives up to hopes and expectations placed upon it but leaves them lightweight against its kaleidoscope of fun, sound, and adventure. What was not predicted here was the nostalgic impact it had on ears and thoughts, as well as memory, for our first time with the band. Musically it weaves in essences from the seventies and eighties into an invigorating modern tenacity but it was finding out the background to the members which inspired us to first trawl through cases of vinyl on a nostalgia trip to relive old favourites ashamedly neglected over time.

Formed in 2006, The Cathode Ray was initially a song-writing collaboration between Jeremy Thoms and ex-Josef K frontman and solo artist Paul Haig, a band and solo project straight away dug out for a reprise in the ears. A couple of well-received singles followed before Haig left the project in 2009. Taking it over Thom enlisted guitarist Steve Fraser once of Edinburgh post punk band the Scars, another enslaving proposition for our passions way back, and alongside him drummer David Mack and bassist Neil Baldwin to complete a new line-up, the latter bringing another search through boxes to relive the glories of the disgracefully under-rated Bluebells and post-punk group TV21. Once that was out of the system it was full-steam ahead with Infinite Variety, an album swiftly living up and more to anything its creators may have helped craft before.

The album’s landscape uses various decades of sound as its palette, twisting and shaping them into unique and colourful proposals with a lyrical exploration to match. Said to loosely be a concept album, Infinite Variety visually and aurally references the natural world whilst looking at emotions involved with the human condition. The songs are kind of bundled into three areas; ‘fear, paranoia, lust and betrayal’ spicing the first few songs before looks at ‘transformation, honesty and realisation’ and subsequently love in various light and dark forms flavour the tracks. Like in a kaleidoscope though, it all seems to disarrange and evolve with every twist of a track to provide an on-going and increasingly fascinating adventure.

That diversity to songs is one of many potent aspects to the album and it all starts with the outstanding Backed Up. A simple rub of guitar and accompanying cowbell prods make first contact, soon joined by crisp beats and an expanding coaxing of melodic enticing. The expressive tones of Thoms join the widening incitement next, his entrance awakening bolder enterprise in the guitars, whilst riffs and hooks come with a great post-punk spicing. The reserved but lively melodic invention provides a sultry colouring which the dark bass tones wonderfully temper whilst vocally Thom drives it all with a voice which is like a mix of Pete Shelley and Ste McCabe to offer another rich texture within the potent album starter.

It is a strong beginning straight away eclipsed by the outstanding Resist, one of the most addictive slices of warped pop you will come across this year. Its hooks instantly get under the skin and into the psyche, swiftly followed by the vocals and the thick bass bait. The song’s infectiousness is simply virulent bringing a whiff of The Revillos to its power pop stomp, a passing scent not as strong as the Buzzcocks like catchiness which oozes from the following Nowhere At All. Again it is merely a spicing though, this time to a captivating stroll of imaginative percussion, imposing rhythms, and addictive enterprise, all soaked in inescapable contagion.

Don’t Waste Your Words strides in next to bring an addictive lure of hip swinging rock ‘n’ roll. Feet and ears are an early submission, whilst the capture of the imagination is barely a drum stick swing away in the riveting temptation of the song. It is not alone in offering hooks and a presence which are indelible in thoughts and emotions even after the album’s departure, but it is probably the most intoxicating though matched straight away by the excellent Buck The Trend, a song with a healthy breath of Tom Verlaine and Television to it. Keys and guitar spin a gorgeous eighties web for the rhythmic and vocal prowess of the song to pull this way and that, a combination sculpting another major highlight in the album. There are times across Infinite Variety, like here, where thoughts wonder if the band may have missed the boat with their sound in the fact that The Cathode Ray would have surely been a big inspirational player in the eighties. Every time that suggestion raises its head though band and album almost in anticipation provides evidence to differ, like No Holds Barred which comes next, proving that they are definitely a perfect fit for the now. The song is a slower but similarly infectious offering with a held in check energy which still has body and emotions swaying feistily with its low key and thoroughly addictive swagger. Once more riffs and melodies combine to create a fresh twist and distinct romp of sound and invention in the album.

The brilliant Eureka Moment! is simply a montage of eighties goodness crafted into a transfixing and exotic jungle of imagination fuelled rhythms, Scars like sonic sweeps, and Bluebells bred melodies. It feels like a song dipping into its creators past exploits and those of others whilst equally drawing on new ingenuity. The John Foxx led version of Ultravox comes to mind as does The Creatures as the track seduces and incites but again they are just particular hues in an new enthralling and thrilling aural conjuring by the band.

This Force Of Nature brings its flowing melodic breeze next, female vocals seducing alongside the tones of Thoms, whilst Torn Apart explores an immersive and haunting cavern of sonic reflection which in many ways has seeds to the likes of House of Love and My Bloody Valentine. The absorbing and mesmeric encounter, as so many songs, keeps the album turning over in imagination and invention, as well as variety, before making way for the post punk croon of The Eyes Are The Window To The Soul. With a bassline which recalls early Cure and an Orange Juice like jangle to its chords, the song is bewitching and engagingly dramatic like a modern day Associates.

The album is closed by the elegant reflection of Saving Grace, a semi-acoustic ballad which simply whisks ears and thoughts off into hope soaked clouds under a smouldering exotic sun of melodic temptation. The song is spellbinding but also only telling half the story at this point. Around mid-way the calm is suddenly infused with ominous rhythms and sinister keys, nothing over imposing but certainly a brewing provocation which is soon ripe with surf rock tendrils of guitar and a tempestuous air. As if warning that good times still offer a stormy adventure, the track is irresistible manna for ears and imagination with seven minutes of sonic alchemy.

Infinite Variety is quite breath-taking, leaving thoughts basking and appetite hungry for much more. There have been many releases and bands recently creating real triumphs of nostalgia and new invention, but The Cathode Ray tops the lot.

Exploding Head Syndrome logo
“INFINITE VARIETY” Album review in EXPLODING HEAD SYNDROME, May 2015. LOVE.LIKE.ALRIGHT: LIKE

Variety is certainly an essential part of living a fulfilling life. That’s why I like to order half & half pizzas, eat all the colours of skittles, and regularly switch up either crying myself to sleep or screaming into a pillow every night. The Cathode Ray have titled their new album Infinite Variety and well, that could only be a good thing. They allow their sound to perform things acoustically, electronically, and even let it dabble in certain genres like punk and psychedelica, like the best parents ever.

Opening track Backed Up is a wonderful slow burner that builds up to a beautiful journey into the world of psychedelic music which is built up of huge walls of guitars riffs and the underlying sense that hey, the world is a pretty happy place. It’s a fantastic way to introduce yourself, much like how I try to introduce myself to new people except The Cathode Ray could probably get laid and invited to things.

Lead single Resist heads into a much more convoluted sound with heavy basslines barging past scatty guitar leads and a tempo that could get The Hives hyped up. Instrumentally it all sounds very off-kilter but the constant drum beat and the vocals somehow manage to steer this thing on track to create quite a catchy little tune. This is also true for the industrially directed song Nowhere At All, which features some very slinky guitar riffs. Oh my it’s good.

As mentioned before The Cathode Ray get a little electronic with their sound as Eureka Moment! comes forth with a brand new dose of swelling synths before making way for a tribal drumbeat and a smooth bassline that gets things moving just a little seductively. This is a great mashup of the garage rock sound we’ve heard so far with a touch of extra synthesiser goodness.

Infinite Variety certainly lives up to its promise. This is a record that changes around whenever it wants and fortunately instead of it sounding like a 14 year old’s mixtape The Cathode Ray succeed it bringing it all together via very entertaining guitar riffs and similar vocal performances. It’s a very solid record from The Cathode Ray, and yeah, nice one lads.

PennyBlackLOGO
JEREMY THOMS Interview in PENNY BLACK MUSIC by JOHN CLARKSON, April 2015

John Clarkson chats to Jeremy Thoms, the front man with Edinburgh-based alternative rock act the Cathode Ray, about his band’s versatile second album, ‘Infinite Variety’, and his rapidly expanding record label, Stereogram Recordings.

It has been over three years since Pennyblackmusic first interviewed Jeremy Thoms.

During that time a lot has changed for Thoms. When we spoke to him then, his band, the Cathode Ray, were about to self-release their eponymous debut album on his own label Stereogram Recordings. Now the Cathode Ray are about to return with a second album, the more colourful ‘Infinite Variety’. Stereogram Recordings, which was originally conceived as simply being a prop for the Cathode Ray, has also gone through a remarkable rise and, currently the base for another six acts, has metamorphosed into becoming possibly Scotland’s finest and most exciting new independent label.

Originally from Aberdeen, Thoms moved to Edinburgh in 1982. He was at one point the keyboardist in the Revillos, and was also the guitarist in much-acclaimed late 1980’s indie hopefuls Jesse Garon and the Desperados. He has played and sung as well in a wide variety of Edinburgh-based other groups including electronic/dance act Paparazzi; the 60’s-influenced Naturals, and alt.pop acts New Leaf and Skyline.

The Cathode Ray was formed by Thoms with ex-Josef K frontman Paul Haig in 2006 with the aim of marrying the sounds of 70’s New York acts such as the Velvet Underground and Television with those of 70’s Mancurian outfits such as Joy Division, Magazine and the Fall.

While Haig dropped out early on, leaving the band after two well-received singles, ‘What’s It All About?’/’Mind’ (Pronoia Records, 2006) and ‘Slipping Away’ (Re-Action Recordings, 2009), to focus on his solo career, Thoms kept that framework for ‘The Cathode Ray’, of which eight out its eleven songs were Thoms/Haig co-writes.

The 70’s new wave and post-punk influences of the first album are still very much in evidence on the new album. Yet ‘Infinite Variety’, as its title implies, has a much wider sound, merging these with influences that range from psychedelia to glam rock, shoegaze to Euro disco, and krautrock to 90’s alternative pop. At one level it is the natural extension of the last record; at another its boundaries have been greatly magnified.

“I wouldn’t say that ‘The Cathode Ray’ was rigid,” says Jeremy Thoms, talking to Pennyblackmusic for this second interview in a bar in Edinburgh’s West End. “We had a concept and deliberately kept things fairly narrow, but for this one, while we didn’t want to go for anything that different in terms of tunes, I wanted to go for more colour and more light and shade. If folk go, ‘That sounds like Pink Floyd,’ or notice the references in there to, say, the Small Faces, then that is great.”

Although Thoms wrote all eleven of the tracks on ‘Infinite Variety’, he acknowledges that much of this expansion in direction has come from the other three members of the Cathode Ray, who provided the arrangements for each song and who also brought their own influences to the album.

Guitarist Steve Fraser, who replaced Haig, was in early 80’s Edinburgh post punk band the Scars, and also worked with the young Mike Scott before he formed the Waterboys in his earlier groups, Another Pretty Face and Funhouse. He currently also plays in Dirty Harry, a Blondie tribute band, and works as well as a full-time session musician. Bassist Neil Baldwin was in 80’s chart act the Bluebells and post-punk group TV21, who once supported the Rolling Stones, Both he and drummer David Mack have also been in and out of various of Thoms’ other bands during the last twenty years.

“With ‘Infinite Variety’ I wanted us to follow our instincts a bit more and to bring in the music that that each of us in the band listened to,” Thoms continues. “We have all got different influences, and someone might bring something in and say, ‘This is a little different’, and I would say, ‘Let’s try it. By the time we have finished with it hopefully it will sound like us.’”

This more kaleidoscopic sound is symbolised on ‘Infinite Variety’ by its sleeve. In contrast to ‘The Cathode Ray’ which featured a black-and-white photograph of an empty underground car park, it has on its front cover a photo of a vibrant explosion of orange flowers. On the inner and back panels of the cover, in a further turbulence of colour, there are photos of over another forty species of flowers and plants.

“I didn’t like the idea of us being portrayed as just this post-punk band,” says Thoms. “I knew that, if we had another black and white sleeve, we would be conjuring up all these further images of industrialism. The picture on the sleeve of the first album was a great image, but it was very stark. I wanted this one to be much more colourful. I was thinking of something along the lines of the old Roxy Music and Cocteau Twins sleeves or which Peter Saville would do. Those are really great pieces of art in themselves.”

“I bought a good camera,” he adds. “I took most of them in the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. I had the camera with me thoughout all last summer and whenever I went out, and any time I saw something that attracted my attention I would take a photograph. When I took the front cover image, I just knew that that was it immediately. I loved the idea that there was so much going on the album, and wanted to show that with the sleeve.”

‘Infinite Variety’ is being billed by Jeremy Thoms and Innes Reekie, who does press and PR for Stereogram Records, as “a concept album of sorts” and as having “a loose narrative which form a song cycle.” They describe it as being an album of three sections. The first part of the album and its first few songs are about “fear, paranoia, lust and betrayal.” The middle part is about “transformation, honesty and realisation”, and the closing section and its final tracks concentrate on “love in all its forms: found, lost, squandered and unconditional.”

“That was completely subconscious,” admits Thoms. “That was Jez Curnow who pointed that out to me.” Curnow is a filmmaker, who runs an Edinburgh-based company Timebase TV, and who will be making a series of videos to accompany most of the tracks on the album.

“I gave him a CDR of ‘Infinite Variety’ last October,” Thoms continues. “And he asked, ‘Is this the running order? ‘ Some of them were rough mixes, but he saw it almost immediately as part of what he was going to do visually as well. Although it was Jez who suggested it, now I see it as having these three different sections as well. If you read the lyrics, you will realise that there is no kind of story, but in terms of theme the songs are definitely gathered together in these three different sections.”

‘Infinite Variety’ opens with the eerie ‘Backed Up’, which combines metallic, staccato beats with a paranoiac, echoing lyric from Thoms (“Backed up against the wall/The odds stack up against us all in time”). As the song begins to build, it wanders increasingly into psychedelic territory, before dropping away in its last seconds back into its original tune. ‘Resist’, the first single from the album, which follows it, has been described by one critic as “Wire kicking Blur up the arse”, and welds scratchy guitars, whirring sound effects and a bouncing melody with further edgy, unsettling vocals from Thoms (“Resist, resist/you know I must insist, insist//Who do you trust?/Desist, desist”).

In the middle section of the album ‘Buck the Trend’ merges pulsating Krautrock electronica with jittering, funky Talking Heads guitars. A hyper Thoms advises, “Make a mess of everything/Go ahead and buck the trend/Try a little imperfection/Go ahead and buck the trend.” ‘Eureka Moment!’, the most sinister track on the album, meanwhile finds Thoms about to “dance on top of the funeral pyre” against a backdrop of shimmering Euro disco beats and churning guitars.

As the album enters its last section, ‘Force of Nature’ is in contrast its most joyous number, a soaring mass of ringing guitars and New Order-style electronica (“It’s so confusing yet still worth pursuing/Maybe this force of nature will save us in the end.”). The balladic ‘Torn Apart’ is a shoegazing number about love in decline (“It’s when things fall apart), while the epic final track ‘Saving Grace’ is a song of two parts. The first part is a crooned 60’s- style ballad in which Thoms boasts of the virtues of his new love (“You take away the pain/You take away the fear”), but in the second part, which concludes in a rush of storming guitars, doubt and worry about whether this love has much of a future has crept in (“Don’t go no no/Don’t go no no/Oh I don’t want you to go no no”).

“I wouldn’t say that I have a particularly pessimistic side to me,” says Thoms, reflecting on his lyrics. “I do, however, have a realistic side. I am aware that things that can go wrong. There is a lot of white turns black in my lyrics. I also like to keep things deliberately ambiguous sometimes because I see a lot of life as being like that. You never know whether the person in ‘Buck the Trend’, for example, is just creating total chaos, or what that eureka moment is, and whether it is a good or a really terrible thing.”

While Thoms set up Stereogram Recordings initially as a vehicle for the Cathode Ray, and also so that he could put out as digital “archive releases” compilations by some of his former bands such as New Leaf, it began to expand as a label when he took on its first additional act, Roy Moller, last year.

Roy Moller, who was born in Edinburgh, spent many years living in Glasgow but recently moved to Dunbar in East Lothian. He has worked with Belle and Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson, co-writing several of their songs. “Once described as Scotland’s best kept secret”, Moller has also recorded several solo albums, which combine a strong sense of melody with a quirky, off-kilter humour. He published his first book of poetry, which is called ‘Imports’, at the beginning of this year.

‘One Domino’, his first album for Stereogram Recordings, is what Moller describes as “an “Edinbralectro record”, listing several of Edinburgh’s locations, and combining this with a string of influences that range from punk to psychedelia to lo-fi indie rock.

“I have known him for quite a while,” says Thoms. “I met him three or four years ago at a gig in Glasgow, and he was already a really good friend. He had run into problems with his previous label. He had sent them ‘One Domino’ and they had decided that it wasn’t their thing. It was very different from the previous album.”

“It was just one of those serendipitous things. Roy and I talked about it, and it went from there, and I said, ‘We’ll put it out on Stereogram and we will see what happens.’ There has never been a game plan with Stereogram. It has been very much an organic thing. I had done my own album, and so we had everything in place to put records out and then these other acts started coming along.”

The next act which Thoms took on was dark Glaswegian Stooges/Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers-style rockers, James King & the Lonewolves. Their long lost album, ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’, came out on Stereogram Recordings in November.

“There was a phone call from Innes out of the blue,” he recalls. He said, ‘Do you want to put out James King’s album? It is recorded. All they need is the press and the distribution and the machinery of a label,’ and so that was loaded up and that was another one.”

James King & The Lonewolves have something of a caustic reputation. First formed in 1981, they became renowned for their unruliness and their frontman King’s mercurial temperament. A legendary profanity-strewn performance in 1985 on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ led to countless complaints from viewers, and to the Lonewolves being dropped by their label, Alan Horne’s Swamplands, for being too difficult to handle. An early version of ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’, produced by John Cale, was recorded but never released, and the group broke up shortly afterwards when King and guitarist Jake McKechan fell out acrimoniously. The Lonewolves only finally reunited when King and McKechan, after twenty-five years of not speaking, met again at the funeral for their former agent. The new version of ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ features the same track listing as the original album, but has been entirely re-recorded.

“James King is a very different character these days,” says Thoms, when asked if he felt he was taking a risk in taking the Lonewolves on. “His wild days are long behind him. He is still quite opinionated but in a good way. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and he knows his righabout ts, but I get on well with him and it has worked out pretty good.”

Roy Moller’s second album of last year, ‘My Week Beats Your Year’– released to coincide with an autobiographical Edinburgh Fringe Festival show Lou Reed’s influence on him – came out on Stereogram Recordings as a download. James King & the Lonewolves ‘ Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ also has both a vinyl and a CD edition. For most Stereogram releases, Thoms intends to stick to a format of releasing singles in digital form and albums on CD and download.

“Vinyl is really a luxury item,” he reflects. “The jury is still out for me on it. The romance of vinyl is one thing but the reality is another. James was at one point sold on this whole idea that the CD is dead and that nobody buys CDs anymore. In my opinion it is a kind of cool thing to say that, and in the younger market I think that is probably true. People between fifteen and twenty-five download stuff and if they want a physical thing they will maybe buy vinyl, but I think that when you are older you really need a CD.”

“The Lonewolves are really well remembered in Glasgow, and ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ has been our biggest seller to date. It has done really well. We just went for 300 copies of the vinyl, but I am really glad that we went for the CD as well because it has sold ten to one ofwhat we sold on vinyl.”

“We haven’t done it with ‘Infinite Variety’’ for example, even though that sleeve would look great in vinyl, because the Cathode Ray are still not well enough known. It is too much of a risk. If things suddenly go kaput for us, we will think again.”

At the same time as James King & The Lonewolves joined the Stereogram, Innes Reekie began to help out Thoms with its management. Reekie has run two other labels, Re-Action Recordings and Mayakovsky Produkts, and is also a journalist, having worked both for ‘Loaded’ magazine and the former Scottish music monthly ‘Cut’.

“He knows everybody,” says Thoms about Reekie who he has known since the 1980s. “It was really after he phoned me up about James King that he started taking on a bigger role at Stereogram. Prior to that, he was always supportive. He helped in a small way with Roy and before that he gave me a list of contacts, but it was really with James King that he came on board. He does press and PR, and has also brought more bands to the table.”

There are now another four bands on the Stereogram line-up.

The Band of Holy Joy, who played a Pennyblackmusic Bands’ Night at the Macbeth in London in January and will be back to headline another one in June, will be releasing their next album, which is provisionally titled ‘The Land of Holy Joy’, in the late summer or early autumn.

Milton Star, who combine darkly atmospheric guitar soundscapes with brooding lyrics, are a duo from rural Fife, who write, record and self-produce all their material in a converted church.

“It was Innes who was the connection there,” Thoms enthuses. “They were all at school together. They have got this great look, and don’ t pretend to be anything else but two old guys in a band. I hate that kind of Mick Jagger thing where you have got to make out that you are young. They look like French Impressionist painters, and wear beards and caps and tweeds. They have got a single coming out soon called ‘Things Fall Apart’, and they have so much material that it is going to be a case of whittling it down. We will be releasing an album from them hopefully later in the year.”

St Christopher Medal is the other band of the Cathode Ray’s David Mack, and was formed out of the ashes of a Scottish pop band Life With Nixon, who split up in 1998 after releasing two EPs. With its five members now living in Dorset, Perthshire, Teeside and New York, it is geographically limited in what it can do, but got together for six days in 2012 to record a late 60’s/early 70’s country rock-influenced album, ‘Sunny Day Machine’, which Stereogram will be releasing over the next few months.

“I have never met a more untogether band,” laughs Thoms. “Their man guy Ali Mathieson is a very talented songwriter. The album, which was finished ages ago, is really good, but because they live so far apart even getting things like photographs and a cover out of them has been difficult. It is going to be a very, very low key record because they are so disparate and all over the place. St Christopher Medal are not necessarily going to be a gig band, but we hope to build things up slowly at a grassroots level and to develop some kind of audience for them.”

Lastly there is Lola in Slacks, a six-piece from Glasgow which includes amongst its members Brian McFie, who is also the guitarist in the recently reformed mid 80’s Scottish pop/rock outfit, the Big Dish.

“Their singer Louise is called Lou Reid” says Thoms. “She is a sort of cross between Edith Piaf, Marianne Faithfull and Eartha Kitt. When you see her live, you wish that they would drop the smoking ban because she stands there stock still with Raybans, all dressed in black with blonde hair and she just needs a fag there. The songs are really beautiful songs. We are looking to get a single out in late June and then album out towards the end of the year. They are really exceptional and very unusual. They are an interesting hybrid of ages and gender. There are three females and three males – a female drummer, a female keyboard player and Louise on vocals and two male guitarists and a bassist, and range in ages from their twenties to their early fifties.”

Jeremy Thoms hopes to take all six of the acts on the Stereogram Recordings roster out on a short package tour later this year. The first show has already been booked at the CCA in Glasgow in early December, and further gigs in Edinburgh and London are also being planned for around the same period.

“It will be in the style of the Live Stiffs tour or one of the old Motown or Stax shows,” enthuses Thoms. “It will hopefully feature the full roster – the Cathode Ray, James King & The Lonewolves, Milton Star, Lola in Slacks, Roy Moller and maybe St Christopher’s Medal, and everyone will have put out an album by then on the label. Everybody will do maybe twenty minutes, half an hour each.”

“The Band of Holy Joy will definitely headline in London. It will be a toss-up between the Band of the Holy Joy and James King in Glasgow, and certainly be James King in Edinburgh. It is not really about egos though. It never has been with this label, and none of our acts are thankfully like that. It is just a case of getting the music out there.”

For now though Jeremy Thoms’ immediate concern is the Cathode Ray and ‘Infinite Variety’, which will come on the 20th April. There will be a launch show in Edinburgh in May, and there are plans for other shows including some dates with the Band of Holy Joy over the summer.

For both the Cathode Ray and Stereogram Recordings, this year will be a busy year.

LouderThanWarLogo
“INFINITE VARIETY” 7/10 Album Review by GUS IRONSIDE in LOUDER THAN WAR, April 2015.

Egghead meta-pop boffins synthesise petri-dish punk for the new digital society. Gus Ironside grabs his clipboard and examines the Edinburgh post-punk research unit’s second album through the penetrating lens of Louder Than War’s electron microscope.

Following the test-tube conception and flawless delivery of their 2012 debut album, Edinburgh post-punk conceptualists The Cathode Ray have proudly announced the arrival of its sibling long-player. ‘Infinite Variety’ is a rather more adventurous progeny, serving almost as a reductio ad absurdum of the entire post-punk indie pop genre from the 80s through to the mid-90s. Whether that’s a stroke of genius or abject insanity is in the ears of the listener. Perhaps it’s helpful to take a couple of paragraphs to put this grand scheme into context.

One of the distinctive strands of post-punk ideology in the 1980s was the ‘anti-rockism’ conceit. The term was coined by Pete Wylie of The Mighty Wah! and popularised by quintessential music journalist Paul Morley. Anti-rockism was a self-conscious, reactionary critique of what was then perceived as the sexist, patriarchal and elitist nature of rock music.

This ideology, in coalition with the rather over-wrought gender guilt politics of the era, also shaped much of the ‘indie’ music of the 80s and 90s, from the C86 scene’s fetishisation of amateurism to Blur’s Mockney affectations and, more successfully, Suede’s stylish re-invention of Glam’s glory years.

The Cathode Ray’s frontman Jeremy Thoms was prototyping his pop-art experiments long before Damon Albarn donned his lab coat, so it’s perhaps not surprising that ‘Infinite Variety’ is such a confident, expansive creation. The chicken-wire guitars of Thoms and lead guitarist Steve Fraser squawk and cluck with impressive verve end skill throughout, while bass-player Neil Baldwin and drummer David Mack purvey a brittle spine that is almost industrial in places. At times, I’m reminded of The Feelies’ jittery, perpetually nervous debut album, ‘Crazy Rhythms’.

Lead single ‘Resist’ rides a herky-jerky cut-time rhythm and could neatly soundtrack DNA nanobots busily going about their microscopic business. Following track ‘Nowhere At All’ is not, sadly, a cover of the fiery Lou Reed rocker, but is nevertheless one of the more immediate tracks on the album, a hook-laden delight, harking back to the irresistible pop-perfection of The Cathode Ray’s sublime debut album.

The whirring clockwork chime of ‘Buck the Trend’ introduces a welcome foray into Stranglers-esque prog-pop. Indeed, it’s easy to detect a Hugh Cornwell influence in the almost Beefheartian, atonal guitar bleats that provide a counter-point to the album’s pervasive sense of melody.

Devo and Kraftwerk are also brought to mind by the arch, cerebral intent of ‘Infinite Variety’. Classic power-pop of the Todd Rundgren variety is marbled through the album and XTC’s clever angle-pop is in the mix, too.

Such is the psychical nature of the album that at times it appears to have been conceived and manufactured by disembodied intellects who have eschewed their carnal form. Attentive listening to the lyrics reveals another story, as the album unfurls an all-too-human narrative arc concerned with the journey from futility to salvation and redemption.

There are glimpses of implied Latin rhythms in some songs, notably ‘Nowhere at All’ and ‘The Eyes Are the Window to the Soul’, suggesting a fruitful direction for further travel. As it is, the listener is left in a state of anticipation, waiting for the bass to swell and a sensuous samba to break on the parched beach. The Cathode Ray’s tightly wound art-pop could blossom into a new variety of exotic flora if it embraced the sparkling bossa-pop confections of Marcos Valle or even Jorge Ben’s mystical samba-funk alchemy.

Ultimately, ‘Infinite Variety’ exists in its own eccentric universe, where Buzzcocks are given the Devo treatment and Britpop’s emblems and accents are reacquainted with its progenitors. Crack the double helix and these test tube treats for pop conceptualists reveal their humanity.

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“INFINITE VARIETY” Album review by KEITH BRUCE in THE HERALD, April 15th 2015
The Herald 15.04.15
Manic Pop Thrills
“IT’S ALL THAT WE HAVE THAT REMAINS” – “INFINITE VARIETY” Album review by MIKE MELVILLE in MANIC POP THRILLS, April 2015

The Cathode Ray’s self titled debut was one of the unexpected surprises for MPT of 2012. Initially a collaboration between Jeremy Thoms and Paul Haig ‘The Cathode Ray’ was an Edinburgh take on New York music in the late 70s, both post punk and dance. However the delay of 6 years between the debut single and the album didn’t prepare me for quite how good it was, not least because Haig had left the band in the interim.

Fast forward three years and the Cathode Ray, now a regular quartet also including Steve Fraser (guitar), Neil Baldwin (bass) and David Mack (drums), are on the point of releasing their second album ‘Infinite Variety’ on Edinburgh’s ever reliable Stereogram Recordings. And, you know what? I reckon that it’s even better than the debut.

With Haig long gone, the new LP is based solely around the songwriting of Thoms. But even if a lot of the core influences remain pertinent, ‘Infinite Variety’ is no re-tread of the debut instead venturing far beyond the confines of the first record.

The press release might give a blow by blow indication of what to expect, but to be honest, I think that does the band something of a disservice. Listened to in the round, ‘Infinite Variety’ proves beyond doubt that the Cathode Ray are forging their own identity.

This is, perhaps, best illustrated by the fact that the record is book-ended by two tracks which share similar expansive structures unlike anything on the first record, albeit each is different in tone.

LP opener ‘Backed Up’ leads with scratchy guitars and minimal bass for two whole verses before exploding into a euphoric climax. The closing ‘Saving Grace’ kicks off with a gorgeous acoustic section before finding redemption in a slightly unsettling conclusion which reminds me of nothing less than dEUS’s ‘Dream Sequence #1’.

Anyone looking for the wired post punk guitars of the first record will still find them in abundance. Single ‘Resist’ owes as much to 70s Wire as to any New York influence whilst ‘Buck The Trend’ ploughs a similar furrow but adds a playful organ as the song picks up pace.

‘Buck The Trend’ would be one obvious choice as a follow-up single to ‘Resist’ but then so would the concise ‘Don’t Waste Your Words’ with its off beat guitars or the uplifting ‘This Force of Nature’. Which rather neatly illustrates that the Cathode Ray don’t lack for great tunes.

The Moroder-like intro and electro underpinning of the choruses mark out ‘Eureka Moment!’ as IV’s obvious dance track. It’s perhaps a shame then that it’s the one song that’s a bit of a disappointment as it doesn’t quite match up to the first record’s dance anthem ‘All My Highs’.

Across the diversity of material on display what ultimately really unifies the songs as the Cathode Ray is Thoms’s knack for a memorable chorus and the consistently inventive backing provided by Messrs Fraser, Baldwin and Mack.

These guys may deserve the veterans tag but, believe me, ‘Infinite Variety’ is an exhilarating roller-coaster ride through a multifaceted post-punk landscape

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“INFINITE VARIETY” **** Album review by WILL FITSPATRICK in THE SKINNY. April 2015

OK, ‘infinite variety’ might be stretching things a little. Still, there’s plenty to digest on this Edinburgh quartet’s second album, from post-punk to prog, Mott The Hoople to My Bloody Valentine. Indeed, so deftly does opener Backed Up mix Syd Barrett with XTC that it’d be tempted to cite Modern Life Is Rubbish-era Blur as a touchstone, were it not for a gloriously Mick Ronson-esque guitar break. Far more hedonistically pure than Damon Albarn’s studious smarts would have allowed for, it nonetheless fits The Cathode Ray’s stirring glam pretensions like a glittering velvet glove.

Having spent over 30 years on the indie periphery, it’s fair to say that songwriter Jeremy Thoms has had enough time to learn a trick or two. What makes his quintessentially British art-pop so thrilling, however, is the slow shift from themes of desperation and loss to an ultimate realisation of love, identity and purpose – perfectly echoed in the jagged jangles of Force Of Nature and Saving Grace’s slow-burning coda. Record collector rock, maybe, but of the most alluring kind.
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“INFINITE VARIETY” Album review by MATTHEW COYTE in BEATROUTE, April 2015

The Cathode Ray is a collaboration project of Jeremy Thoms, Steve Fraser, Neil Baldwin and David Mack. This Scottish band, much like the name of their album reveals, offers a wide landscapes of sounds and inspirations. Here they’ve merged ‘70s English rock with punk-rock with disco, which is an utterly odd mix but one that works in the favour of these seasoned punk veterans. Sonically Infinite Variety is unsurprisingly all over the place. Take the lead single “Resist,” which can only be compared to the feeling one gets when running from the cops on a dark night. It’s a short, furious track, clocking in at just over two minutes filled with classic punk guitar and a thumping drumbeat while the vocals scream to resist. This record is one of transformation through adversity and negativity, to redemption and positivity through self-awareness. While this album is a tad unfocused audibly, this is one definitely worth checking out.

PureM Magazine logo
“INFINITE VARIETY” Album Review by EDDIE REILLY in PURE M MAGAZINE, May 2015.***

Anthemic collection of tunes with echoes of Nineties Britpop.

I once had a slightly pompous music teacher who was surprisingly receptive to my pop songwriting efforts. In between trying to persuade me to join the choir or attend orchestra practice more often, he gave me a useful tip: ‘Come up with meaningful lyrics and they will drive the music.’

I couldn’t help recalling that advice from my schooldays while listening to Infinite Variety, the latest offering from Edinburgh alternative rock four-piece, The Cathode Ray. The accompanying Press blurb invokes a head-spinning variety of influences spanning three decades of rock and pop. Bowie, the Stones, Iggy Pop, Talking Heads, Isley Brothers, Depeche Mode and Blur, to name a few. In equal measure, this album claims to be ‘experimental’ and ‘loosely a concept album’ with a ‘loose narrative’.

In my view, it’s a solid toe-tapping rock collection, in parts anthemic, with a strong Nineties Britpop flavour. Indeed, there are nods to experimentation instrumentally, while track four, the highly melodic ‘Don’t Waste Your Words’, makes a determined stab at Seventies-era glam-rock. But to me, this Scottish four-piece seem most at home with the kind of ‘wall of sound’ rock style that defined Oasis in the Nineties and beyond.

For instance, album opener ‘Backed Up’ begins with the edgy sound of alternating cowbells (one tuned higher than the other), offset against power chords (soon exchanged for dissonant bar chords). By three-and-a-quarter minutes in, the track settles into such a rich – and entirely harmonious – instrumental groove that you won’t want it to end. The ‘La La La’ vocal section offset against a searing lead guitar solo echoes Oasis style (Think ‘All Around The World’), and if you’re into that kind of thing, you’ll probably enjoy Infinite Variety. I also enjoyed track three, ‘Nowhere At All’, with its strong opening riff and catchy tune.
the-sunday-experience
“RESIST” Single review in THE SUNDAY EXPERIENCE blog. March 2015

I’m fairly certain we’ve a copy of the latest Cathode Ray full length ‘infinite variety’ lurking large in our to listen to pile the urgency of which is not lost on us not since having heard the lead-off single ‘resist’ and finding its incurably addictive kookiness prompting the hitting of the repeat button each and every time in looms into ear space. Chop chop riffs, acutely angular riffola and the kind of impish art pop panache that admirers of the fire engines, Wire and the Cardiacs may well find a common ground that is when they’re not pogoing themselves daft for ‘resist’ is groomed and grooved in the frenetic eye poking agit boogie that was once the mainstay of the much missed Playwrights though cross wire this with the day glo exuberance of a late 70’s Buzzcocks and you’ve a whole heap of panic stricken needling niceness.

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“RESIST” Single review in FOR MALCONTENTS ONLY blog. March 2015

If I had to list every act that the members of The Cathode Ray had ever plyed their trade in then this would likely become an overly long post. Instead I’ll just say that singer Jeremy Thoms was once upon a time a Revillo, going under the gloriously bad but somehow perfect for that band moniker of Fabian Wonderful, while Neil Baldwin was bassist of TV21 and guitarist Steve Fraser used to be a Scar.

Various bloggers have mentioned the influence of Buzzcocks, Wire and Blur on the music of The Cathode Ray and, sure enough, the single Resist does come over as the closest thing we’ll ever get to hearing what a collaboration between A Different Kind of Tension era Buzzcocks, early Wire and Blur at the height of Britpop might have sounded like.

The Cathode Ray have a new album Infinite Variety out shortly on Stereogram Recordings, a label based in Edinburgh whose roster includes Lola in Slacks and James King and The Lonewolves. If such an award exists, Stereogram surely must be in the running for best Scottish independent label in 2015.

Written and produced by Fabian, sorry Jeremy, this is their new single Resist, which the band themselves describe as ‘a sort of crazy punk rock/krautrock oompah hybrid.’ I find it almost impossible to believe that anybody that follows his blog won’t approve heartily of this track:

To coincide with the release of Infinite Variety, the band will perform a half hour in-store set at the Elvis Shakespeare Book & Record Shop on Leith Walk in Edinburgh on Record Store Day (Saturday, April 18).

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“RESIST” Single review in PURE M MAGAZINE by Dave Simpson. March 2015

Edinburgh based alt-rock ensemble The Cathode Ray first began to take shape in 2006 as a collaborative project between singer/songwriters Jeremy Thoms and Paul Haig. It wasn’t long before the duo were joined in their efforts by bassist Neil Baldwin and drummer David Mack. As a foursome, they took to the studio to record their first song which was unleashed later that same year through Pronoia Records. The double A-side release ended up being quite a success, gracing the airwaves of several radio stations.

Its follow-up, “Slipping Away”, didn’t arrive until nearly three years later in 2009. By that point, there had been some change-up behind the scenes, with Haig having left and been replaced by guitarist Steve Fraser, giving birth to the band’s current incarnation. The second single marked another victory for the group, at the time being proclaimed as Single of the Year by an article featured in The Guardian newspaper.

2010 saw the musicians hit the Scottish live scene for the first time and make a name for themselves in doing so, ultimately resulting in their earning stage time at The Wickerman Festival. Their self-titled debut album hit in April of 2012 on Stereogram Records, with the song “Dispersal” achieving the distinction of being named as Track of the Month on BBC Radio in their homeland.

Now, the troupe are gearing up for the release of sophomore record Infinite Variety with their latest offering, “Resist”. Bouncing in on a playful riff, fast paced and melodic vocals quickly take over, racing through the verse. The instrumentation matches their speed and energy as it builds purposefully, grabbing the spotlight back following the first barrage of lyrics. The momentum remains relentless throughout, refusing to slow down for even a single moment of the two minute, fourteen second run time.

With its infectious rhythm and lighthearted sound, this is a fun and catchy pop punk number that is sure to build excitement for the forthcoming album. “Resist” is currently available for download from iTunes, while Infinite Variety is due to drop next month on April 20th.

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“RESIST” Single review. LISTEN WITH MONGER. March 2015

Four guys from Edinburgh have popped up in my inbox under the name The Cathode Ray and they have a new single for your ears and mine – whether you like it or not. ‘Resist’ is said single and despite being only two and a quarter minutes long it is a delightful indie-pop-punk romp. Bouncy guitars, a poppy bass line and the kind of drums that should be played by a monkey with ADHD all combine to create a song that, if it were one of your friends, would be the really annoying, insistent one who repeats the same joke over and over again until you punch them in the face. You know who I’m talking about…..Ian. Think Midget mixed with Space and a bit of early Super Furry Animals as produced by Jedward going through an alternative phase sponsored by Lucozade. It’s more hyper than that.

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“RESIST” Single review. TASTY FANZINE. March 2015

Edinburgh music veterans whose lineup has at various times included members of Josef K, Scars, TV21 and The Bluebells (and probably at least one of the Fire Engines) partying like it’s 1979 and it’s really quite good in a Rezillos if they’d signed to Postcard records sort of way, jittery and angular and with a retro futurist twist. Post punk like it’s supposed to sound, performed by experts. JG
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“RESIST” SINGLE REVIEW BY RICK FULTON
Daily Record 06.03.15
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“INFINITE VARIETY” Album review by Roy Moller. IS THIS MUSIC? February 2015

From opener ‘Backed Up’s taut avant dub entrance to the spiral and crunch of guitars strafed over crisp bass and drums, there’s no doubting the sonic sparkle of this tour de force of pared-down yet vital rock from The Cathode Ray.

There’s confidence aplenty here. Effortlessly riding every angular guitar squiggle and martial drum punctuations, each song inhabits its perfect sonic skin. Running times here are indeed varied, and as with the perfectly measured arrangements, tailored to suit the song -from the snappy brevity of the single, Resist, to the elongated closer, the swirling ‘Saving Grace’.

Nagging riffs kickstart or uncoil from every track. The guitars of singer Jeremy Thoms and axe ace Steve Fraser play off each other throughout to pretty thrilling effect. There are enough seasoned subtleties in their playing to repay repeated listenings for six-string kicks alone but the album lands emotional punches to match them. Thoms’ lyrics and nuanced vocal stylings play on the open-hearted side of cool, over the 11 songs describing a redemptive arc from stifling confinement to a winning sense of salvation.
This cohesion, both musical and lyrical, ensures that Infinite Variety refrains from straying into the smorgasbord of styles its title might at first suggest. The Cathode Ray never lose focus despite the myriad influences distilled by the four-piece.

An urgent, engaging sophomore offering from a band that effortlessly blends musical maturity with the fizz and buzz of prime guitar pop.

PRAISE FOR “THE CATHODE RAY”
The-Cathode-Ray-Album-Cover

“‘The Cathode Ray’ is an exhilarating, magnificent experience.” – PENNYBLACKMUSIC

“Spry debut from Scottish post punk veterans” – UNCUT 6/10

“‘The Cathode Ray’ is, simply put, a cracking record.” – MANIC POP THRILLS

“An exciting journey, which takes in the sights of surf, glam and retro-futurism along the way.” – LEONARDS LAIR

 “Jeremy Thoms’ bands do not disappoint” – THE SCOTSMAN ****

“The Cathode Ray? Well and truly switched on.” – IS THIS MUSIC? ****

“Absolute quality – this deserves some attention.” – THE HAPPENING

“The album itself is a resounding success.” – THE SOUND PROJECT ****

“They simply go from strength to strength.” – LEICESTER BANGS

“Gently bobbing, new wave/post punk, sparky, sprightly, exceedingly catchy” – MUDKISS FANZINE

PennyBlackLOGOPennyblackmusic Writers : Albums of the Year 2012

JOHN CLARKSON
1. White Space – The Crescent Wave
2. Distractions – The End of the Pier
3. The Cathode Ray –The Cathode Ray
4. Glissando – The World Without Us
5. Paul Buchanan – Mid Air
6. Twilight Sad- No One Can Ever Know
7. I Like Trains – The Shallows
8. Arto Vaun – The Cynthia Sessions
9. Last Harbour – Your Heart, It Carries the Sound
10.Kat Parsons – Talk to Me

Manic Pop Thrills
MANIC POP THRILLS: 2012 LPs – 1-10

Whilst 2012 has been a better year for good LPs than last year, I confess that I feel that are far fewer great LPs than in previous years. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong places. Anyhow without further ado here are my favourite 10 albums of the year:

10. The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know

9. The Cathode Ray – The Cathode Ray

8. Shearwater – Animal Joy

7. The Grand Gestures – The Grand Gestures

6. Meursault – Something for the Weakened

5. These Singles Spies – Shipwrecking

4. Lee Ranaldo – Between the Times and the Tides

3. Bob Mould – Silver Age

2. Cancel The Astronauts – Animal Love Match

1. The Big Sleep – Nature Experiments

 

THE SOUND PROJECT – An Alternative to the Alternative : The Top 20 Albums of 2012

2012 really has been a great year for music.  This was the year of fantastic debuts, old timers showing them how it’s done as well as other

fairly new acts proving they’ve got it in them to follow up their storming debuts.  If I’m honest, this list could easily have been a top 100 as there really were that many great records this year.  As it is, we’ve managed to whittle it down to a mere twenty…

20. Shrag – Canines (Fortuna POP!)

19. Evans the Death – Evans the Death (Fortuna POP!)

18. Let’s Levitate – Tied to the Mast (Professor)

17. Standard Fare – Out of Sight Out of Town (Melodic)

16. Sweet Heart Sweet Light – Spiritualized (Double Six)

15. Sinking Into Darkness – Sacre Noir (Savage)

14. Snide Rhythms – Snide Rhythms (Bonjour Branch)

13. Bad Kitty – Ste McCabe (Cherryade)

12. Valentina – The Wedding Present (Scopitones)

11. Ask the Animals – Warren McIntyre & The Starry Skies (Mecca Holding Co)

10. The Cathode Ray – The Cathode Ray (Stereogram)

This album took almost as long to make as Guns ‘N’ Roses ‘Chinese Democracy’, but thankfully the music here was a million times better.  Jeremy Thoms has been kicking around the Edinburgh music scene longer than most of us have been alive and during that time he’s teamed up with some great musicians.  He’s joined by four of them here, including ex-Josef K frontman Paul Haig, who appears as a shadowy figure in the background.  Tracks like ‘Train’ (pure guitar pop) and ‘Around’ (darky, moody and beautiful) make the long wait worthwhile!i>

9. Wildlife – The Lovely Eggs (Egg)

8. (III) – Crystal Castles (Fiction)

7. The Singing’s Getting Better – Roy Moller & Sporting Hero (Mecca Holding Co)

6. Psychedelic Pill – Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Warner Bros)

5. Make Friends Not Money – Thank You So Nice (bandcamp)

4. One Day I’m Going To Soar – Dexys (BMG)

3. Star Map – Golden Fable (Full of Joy)

2. Stay Wild – The Creeping Ivies (Dead Beat)

1. I Live Where You Are – Lonely Tourist (Tourist Info)

 

Jocknroll LogoJocknroll Review of the Year 2012 : New Music Enjoyed – Albums

Linden – Bleached Highlights (AED) MY ALBUM OF THE YEAR

BMX Bandits – In Space (Elefant)

 The Wellgreen – Wellgreens (The Barne Society) (only heard this year)

The Pictish Trail – Secret Soundz Vol 2 (Fence) (not out until 2013)

 The Cathode Ray – The Cathode Ray (Stereogram)

 Lightships – Electric Cables (Geographic)

 Paul Buchanan – Mid Air (Newsroom)

A Band Called Quinn – Red Light Means Go (Tromolo)

 

mudkiss‘Train’/ ‘Around’ singles reviews by Chumki Banerjee, MUDKISS, December 2012

It was Vic Godard of Subway Sect who shone his light on The Cathode Ray, for me , in August, when I reviewed their single ‘Dispersal’: ‘…tantalisingly tempting fusion of ‘Rip It Up’ Orange juice with Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and Devo…coolly captivating…poetic lyricism…. saunters sunnily along, captivating my heart, refreshingly unpretentious yet clearly committed….’ Purveyor and supporter of inspiring music, Vic’s commitment and recommendations are to be commended and The Rays are no exceptions. In affinity with their name, they radiate a lush, rounded analogue sound, glimmered with ethereal glow of captivating effects, projecting a slightly distorted, Sixties tinged world, which is not entirely black or white.  Taken from the same album as ‘Dispersal’, ‘Train’ and ‘Around’ are just as engaging:

‘Train’: careers along on flurry of drums, and pumping engine of throbbing bass, sparkling guitar showering sparks, vocal swinging, on rock and roll ride; plunged into tunnel echoing, opaque, vocal sucked from ether of supersonic wake, echoed, prickled by distortion, diverted to minor key, hissing into sinister siding; “…stay away from the good side… stay away from the bad side… going to run into trouble… somewhere along the ride…” before emerging, rolling free. Rock and roll sunshine intriguingly overcast with darker shadow. ‘Around’, with its poignant lilt of shimmered, pulsating guitar and tambourine, is shaken by hint of hammer horror, rumbling, quietly inveigling, creeping vocal, in velvet smoking jacket, toying with harmony of sweetly innocent intent, led astray by seductive growl of chugging bass, sullied by vibrations of Shadows guitar; Spaghetti Western swaggering through Sixties thriller, genius of a song which insinuates itself in crevices of the mind, with its catchy , sexy, sunny theme,  menaced by surprising twist. The more I listen to Cathode Ray the more they slowly reveal, bursting into brilliance, mirror and smoke, things are not as they seem, classy classics remade, turned on their heads.

PennyBlackLOGOWee Red Bar, Edinburgh, 7/9/12. Live review by John Clarkson, PENNY BLACK MUSIC, October 2012

Now in their second line-up, the Edinburgh-based post-punk band the Cathode Ray have been a growing presence on the Scottish music circuit and since the release of their delayed debut album in April of this year.

‘The Cathode Ray’, which has come out on front man Jeremy Thoms’ own label Stereogram Records, was an Album of the Month on Janice Forsyth’s influential Saturday morning show on Radio Scotland. For several weeks it was also the second bestselling album in Avalanche Records, Edinburgh’s biggest surviving independent record store.

On the live scene, the Cathode Ray have also made steady progress. There have been regular shows in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and these gigs, which included a Pennyblackmusic Bands’ Night set in June in the latter city at the now sadly closed Bay bar, have attracted a small, but enthusiastic following.

Tonight’s show at the Wee Red Bar in the Edinburgh Art College has been sponsored by a local music website the Sound Project www.thesoundproject.org.uk, and is the latest in a series of excellent Friday night monthly local band showcases that the Sound Project puts on there.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Jeremy Thoms, bassist Neil Baldwin and drummer David Mack spent twenty years in and out of each other’s bands and acts such as Skyline and New Leaf before forming the Cathode Ray with former Josef K front man Paul Haig in 2006.

What shines through tonight, and befits a group who have spent so long in their various incarnations working together, is what a tight musical unit the Cathode Ray are. Lead guitarist Steve Fraser, who replaced Haig after he quit after two singles in 2009, is also an excellent addition to the line-up. His ringing chords have a depth and weight that helps to push the group far beyond the perimeters of post-punk. and which mixes it together with elements of 60’s garage rock, glam rock and psychedelia.

This is a relentless, breathless set, partially exaggerated by the Cathode Ray being up against a strict curfew and time limit of forty minutes, and partially, as those in the audience who have seen them before are aware, even if they hadn’t had to drop a couple of numbers as they have done tonight, they would be like this anyway.

Jeremy Thoms’ delivers his lyrics with a clipped forcefulness and brusque fury, but strip them away and they reveal a sense of estrangement and paranoiac anxiety. It is at odds with the married father-of-two’s personality off stage, and who there is quietly spoken and charmingly polite.

“You were my only choice/I’m always on the outside looking in,” he snips on the churning opening number, ‘Lost and Found’, eyeing voyeuristically someone who has not so much run out on him, but one suspects has probably not ever been even dimly aware of him in the first place. As the set moves on things become if anything more warped and twisted still. “It’s a dispersal, dispersal/Everything becomes fragmented/The party line’s been circumvented,” he sings on recent single, ‘Dispersal’, a number, which while it is on the surface possibly the most upbeat track of the evening, has the same dark intensity as everything else on show tonight.

‘The Race’, the final track on ‘The Cathode Ray’, appears mid-set, and is a number that Thoms’ gamely admits that David Mack doesn’t like very much. Mack, who travels up from Middlesbrough for gigs having moved there a couple of years ago, shrugs and seems happy to play it anyway. It is a slow, sinister-sounding tune that builds in force, and shows a total detachment from society (“Somebody called me from far away/What day is today?/Another time another place/Feels like I’ve run the race”).

The ten song set is concluded with the stomping Heartbreakers-style trash rock of ‘What’s It All About?’, the Cathode Ray’s 2006 first single, which was recorded originally with Paul Haig on lead vocals. But Thoms’ has here made it his blistering own, replacing Haig’s mock-lazy drawl (“My brain is hurting/Just to get the words out/I’m looking at you/I need to scream and shout”) with a cold anger and fury.

Afterwards Jeremy Thoms and Steve Fraser chat and banter with friends and fans. David Mack prepares for the long journey back down south, and Neil Baldwin, amiably bidding the others good night, dashes off to catch a last bus.

A lot of us a lot of the time feel at odds with the rest of existence or float in the blacker margins of the mind. The Cathode Ray have the honesty and bravery to tackle these feelings head on. They are always melodic enough to be accessible, too dark, however, in focus to ever make really comfortable listening. The Cathode Ray are an always rewarding act, and a captivating live experience.

mudkiss‘Dispersal’ single review by Chumki Banerjee, MUDKISS, August 2012

Gently bobbing, new wave/post punk, sparky, sprightly, exceedingly catchy, chirpy little number, tantalisingly tempting fusion of  ‘Rip It Up’ Orange juice with Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and Devo; coolly captivating, though slightly craven vocal, grungy, throbbing bass, dustily laconic  drums, jaunty, jingly, jangly guitar and engaging, rhythmically poetic lyricism “… everything becomes fragmented… party line circumvented… all you know has been diverted… status quo perverted….” , saunters sunnily along, captivating my heart, refreshingly unpretentious yet clearly committed, circumventing usual Mudkiss channels to circuitously land on my review desk via the estimable Vic Godard, hats off to his good taste.

Manic Pop Thrills
Album review by Mike Melville, MANIC POP THRILLS, May 2012

OK, that’s hopefully the busiest work week of the year over and done with now. And after something like 21 hours sleep out of the last 48, I’m starting to feel like I’m not completely exhausted. So it seems like time to kick some life back into the blog with a proper LP review of a record I’ve been listening to a lot in the last couple of weeks.

After releasing their debut single ‘What’s It All About?’ as far back as 2006, the Cathode Ray have finally released their debut self-titled LP on Stereogram Records. Although originally a songwriting collaboration between Jeremy Thoms and Paul Haig, Haig left the band a while back. However that appears to have had no adverse impact on the band at all because ‘The Cathode Ray’ is, simply put, a cracking record.

By and large it’s an up tempo LP as evidenced by second and third singles ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘Train’. Which isn’t to say though that this isn’t a diverse set of songs.

Much of the inspiration is drawn from the late 70s mainly from the post-punk scenes on both sides of the Atlantic with the occasional nod to white boy funk (such as on the HI-NRG indie dance of ‘All My Highs’).

What really makes the record though is that the tunes are strong throughout. So much so that it’s a difficult record to pick out highlights from. In the interests of being slightly more specific though, the aforementioned ‘Train’ sounds like early Subway Sect transposed to the Big Apple of the late 70s whilst ‘Lost and Found’ boasts a slightly sinister OJ groove. Opening track ‘Patience Is A Virtue’ is slightly at odds with the rest of the record being the most sonically challenging tune its squally guitars soundtracking a bitter tale of a break-up.

If the pace of the record largely veers between the frantic and medium paced, there are a couple of exceptions. Their most recent single release ‘Around’ show off a more sensitive side to the band whilst LP closer ‘The Race’ is a more considered piece albeit with a couple of dramatic tempo changes thrown in.

As much as I’d loved ‘What’s It All About?’, I wasn’t sure quite sure what to expect from this record as ‘Slipping Away’ had washed over me a bit on its release. So in that context ‘The Cathode Ray’ is a bit of a surprise but a very welcome one indeed. One of the highlights of 2012 so far.

Jeremy Thoms interviewed by Mike Melville, MANIC POP THRILLS, June 2012

Several years after their debut single was released the Cathode Ray finally released their debut self titled LP a few weeks back. As previously noted on MPT, it’s an excellent record and I was delighted when singer/guitarist Jeremy Thoms agreed to do an interview for the blog.

MPT – Who are the Cathode Ray?

JT – Jeremy Thoms: Lead vocals; guitars; keyboards / Steve Fraser: Lead guitar; backing vocals / Neil Baldwin: Bass / David Mack: Drums & percussion

MPT – What bands have you all been in before?

JT – Jeremy: The Presidents Men; Revillos; New Leaf; Skyline; The Fabulous Artisans

Steve: pre-Waterboys Mike Scott; The Scars

Neil: TV21; The Bluebells; New Leaf

David: The Twinsets; Skyline

MPT – Sell the band to someone who’s not heard you before – in 20 words or less.

JT: Post-punk with disco, surf, garage, soundtrack, glam-rock, psychedelic and northern soul flavours.

MPT – How did the band start out?

JT – Not as a band at all. It was more of a song-writing project between myself and Paul Haig in 2005/06. A band line-up came about when we decided we wanted to record the songs with a classic live feel.

MPT – What happened when Paul Haig left the band?

JT – Paul never really wanted to be a band again after Josef K (and certainly not doing gigs), so it was a mutually amicable agreement that Neil, Dave and myself would continue it ourselves. Once we found Steve Fraser, who fitted in so perfectly, we had our new line-up.

MPT – How much of the LP was written with Paul?

JT – 8 of the 11 songs are co-writes with Paul. “Dispersal”, “Creature Of Habit” and “She Hates To Lose” were written solely by myself.

MPT – The original premise for the band was to mix late 70s New York with late 70s Manchester – how successful was that premise and how much does the LP live up to it?

JT – It was a very loose concept, mainly  born out by the fact that we all like a lot of music those cities produced at that period. Not just the new wave/post-punk stuff, but the disco scene in New York too. Without sticking too rigidly to it, I do feel you can hear that cross pollination in the music.

MPT – What are the plans for continuing to promote the LP?

JT – As much as possible, really. More press. More gigs around the country. The next is in Glasgow at The Bay on June 15th as part of a Pennyblackmusic bands night. We’re also playing the Wickerman Festival in July plus Manchester and London dates are pending. Otherwise, hopefully we’ll pick up some more radio play when “Dispersal” is released as a single in June and we’re looking into doing some radio sessions too.

MPT – What’s the likelihood of a second  Cathode Ray LP at some point?

JT – Most definitely. The positive response to the first album has been very encouraging, so we’re working on new material already. Four new songs are ready to be added to the live set, so we’ll probably think about starting recording late summer/early autumn.

MPT – What’s been your favourite and biggest gigs played to date?

JT – Most of the gigs so far have been pretty small! I suppose supporting Penetration at Stereo in Glasgow in has been the biggest. The album launch at The Citrus in Edinburgh has probably been my personal favourite to date.

MPT – Any celebrity fans?

JT – Kris Needs gave us a great write up in The Happening. Vic Godard always says nice positive things. Does Janice Forsyth count as a celebrity? She’s a fan.

MPT – What’s the one question that you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview? And what’s the answer?

JT – This is the most tricky one. Here goes…

Q: Your back catalogue is very eclectic. Any reason for this?

A: I get bored easily and like to experiment with many musical genres. I cite Bowie, Costello and more recently, Damon Albarn, as examples of how this is a good thing. Not all of it is necessarily successful, but it makes things a lot more interesting. Even in The Cathode Ray, you can expect some musical surprises to be thrown up in the future.

Thanks to Jeremy for taking the time to answer these questions.

The Cathode Ray will be performing at the Bay in Glasgow on Friday 15th June and follow that up with an appearance at the Wickerman Festival on Friday 20th July.

‘Dispersal’ comes out as a download single tomorrow (11th June) whilst the self titled debut LP is available in all good Scottish record shops and online
UNCUT LOGO RED 95PCJune 2012


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Leonards Lair LogoAlbum review by Jon Leonard, LEONARD’S LAIR, May 2012

There is an intriguing backstory to the first album for The Cathode Ray since it was originally a collaboration forged between singer/songwriter Jeremy Thoms and ex-Josek K frontman Paul Haig in 2006. Sometime later, Haig’s solo career started to pay off and Thoms was left to continue the project alone. This he has now done with the help of new band members, so the debut album by The Cathode Ray arrives six years after their first single.

Thoms is certainly no novice at this kind of thing, even if he isn’t as big a name as Haig. He has already helmed (with distinction) melodic pop/rock act Skyline and the soulful epic sounds of The Fabulous Artisans. Indeed, the project starts well thanks to the surging rushes of ‘Patience Is A Virtue’; an exciting journey which takes in the sights of surf, glam and retro-futurism along the way. Well constructed hooks are abound for the infectious ‘Dispersal’ and ‘Creature Of Habit’. Perhaps inevitably there are comparisons to be drawn with other Scottish acts and it’s fair to say that Edwyn Collins would be proud to have written ‘Lost And Found’ whilst the intense guitar interplay on ‘Slipping Away’ bears comparison with Josef K.

Thoms once again proves his talent and his versatility with The Cathode Ray and what is more, the band pack a punch and an energy that groups half their age would be grateful for. It may have taken half a decade to complete but this is another successful mission accomplished for Thoms.

PennyBlackLOGOAlbum Review by John Clarkson, PENNY BLACK MUSIC, April 2012

The Cathode Ray went through a difficult birthing process. The group was formed initially as a writing project between ex-Josef K front man Paul Haig and singer-songwriter Jeremy Thoms in Edinburgh in 2006. Haig, however, decided that he wanted to focus on his rejuvenated solo career, and, after releasing two well-received singles, ‘What’s It All About?’/’Mind’ (Pronoia Records, 2006) and ‘Slipping Away’ (Re-Action Recordings, 2009), he quit the band amicably, leaving its other members, Thoms (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Neil Baldwin (bass) and David Mack (drums) to reassemble after his departure with new guitarist Steve Fraser.

Haig remains a shadowy presence on the Cathode Ray’s eponymous debut album, which the group began work on and recorded an earlier, unreleased version of before he left. Eight of its eleven songs are Haig/Thoms co-writes, and on three of those Haig also makes guest appearances on backing vocals and guitar. The lyrics are also embedded with Haig’s trademark melancholia and neuroticism. “It’s all right if you hate my guts/I survived,” sings Thoms as an opening gambit on one of those co-compositions and the first track, ‘Patience is a Virtue’, and from there things only become steadily even more bleak.

It would be easy, but also very wrong to define ‘The Cathode Ray’ even now as being a Paul Haig album under another guise. It is much more so a statement about the other four members of the band, and Jeremy Thoms in particular.

A talented and versatile, but yet under-rated musician, Thoms is perhaps best known for being at one point the keyboardist in the Revillos and was also the guitarist in much acclaimed late 1980’s Edinburgh indie hopefuls Jesse Garon and the Desperados. He has, however, also played and sung in a wide variety of other groups including electronic/dance act Paparazzi; the 60’s pop-influenced Naturals; country and western band New Leaf and classic rock group Skyline.

The Cathode Ray was devised by Thoms and Haig with the concept of welding together the sounds of 70’s New York acts such as the Velvet Underground and Television with those of 70’s Mancurian outfits such as Joy Division, Magazine and the Fall. They do do that with their music. Much of it has a spiky, often scratchy-guitar post-punk sound, but then they take it and mix it up with the influences of Thoms’ other groups.

‘Patience is a Virtue’ merges its menacing tune and angst-torn lyrics with cascades of keyboards and a sudden flurry of Spaghetti Western guitars. Exuberant recent single, ‘Train’, is a combination of whirlwind, jangling guitars and swooning Beach Boys vocal harmonies. Next single, ‘Around’ for all its sturdy new wave guitars is essentially a Northern Soul paean to a lost love, and ‘Lost and Found’ mixes heavy, industrial guitars with a swaggering 70’s disco beat.

As for the stark existentialism of the lyrics, Thoms’ own compositions, the droll Edwyn Collins pop of ‘Dispersal’ (“A thought occurred to me just the other day/Nothing lasts for long before you have to pay”) and the swaggering white soul of ‘Creature of Habit’ (“But those silent words had hidden meaning/They never said that you were leaving”),for all their summery sounds reveal that Thoms can write from just as dark an emotional place as Haig. ‘The Cathode Ray’ is an exhilarating, magnificent experience, one that takes 70’s post-punk and new wave and then embroiders them with an imaginative set of other sources and influences. It has had a long, hard gestation, but has been very much worth its wait.

Scotsman logoAlbum review by Colin Sommerville, THE SCOTSMAN, April 2012 Rating: ****

Having earned their musical stripes over the past three decades in and around Edinburgh and Scotland, Jeremy Thoms’  bands do not disappoint, and The Cathode Ray now also feature former Bluebells and TV21 bassist Neil Baldwin.

Thoms’ distant vocal recalls Howard Devoto, while songs such as Train swing with the poppy bounce of the Revillos. He is a sufficiently clever lyricist to work a word such as “ephemeral” into a song (Dispersal) without sounding contrived, and can make a song such as Around bright and breezy, with the help of guest writing and vocal duties from Paul Haig, on eight of the 11 songs included here.

Shindig Happening LogoAlbum review by Kris Needs, THE HAPPENING, April 2012

Despite trends coming and going, Scotland has always maintained a strong tradition of songwriting in its purest form. Although singer-guitarist Jeremy Thomas and former Josef K front man Paul Haig originally wanted to fuse late ’70s New York and Manchester influences, their own character soon emerged, taking in a much broader spectrum after the latter left to concentrate on his solo career. After Haig was replaced by former Scars/Mike Scott guitarist Steve Fraser (who also joins ex-Bluebells/TV21 bassist Neil Baldwin and drummer David Mack), Thomas wrote more songs and the group recorded its debut album.

The set is a beguiling mixture of Postcard-style pop (‘Patience Is A Virtue’), Joy Division-Magazine drama-cruise (‘Get A Way’), subtle post-punk dissonance-meets-Magazine (‘Get A Way’), Bowie balladeering (‘The Race’) and Velvets-style rhythm guitar underpinning gems like first single, ‘Around’. Absolute quality – this deserves some attention.

The Skinny LogoAlbum Review by Chris Buckle, THE SKINNY, April 2012

While the particles in a cathode ray travel at lightning speed, Edinburgh’s The Cathode Ray are somewhat slower paced. A single in 2006, a second in 2009, and now finally an album three years later again – but as the animated opening track handily reminds those tut-tutting and tapping their wrists, Patience is a Virtue.

Part of the leisurely arrival is no doubt a consequence of founder member Paul Haig (formerly of Josef K) leaving to focus on solo material, his exit amicable but presumably impactful. His fingerprints remain, credited as co-author on eight of the eleven tracks, including album highlights like Monkees-pop nugget Train and the arch art-punk energy of Get A Way. In comparison, songwriting partner Jeremy Thoms’ sole-penned offerings are more variable, ranging from ace (Dispersal) to the record’s worst (the Santana-like Creature of Habit), casting doubt on the band’s more definitively Haig-less future. But for now, they’re scintillating.

Leicester Bangs LogoAlbum review by Kev A., LEICESTER BANGS, April 2012

You have to wait until the fifth track “Lost and Found” calmly kicks in before anything actually reaches out to grab you. When it does it’s a pleasant sensation, the sort of feeling that Edwyn Collins is able to project through his songs. In fact “Lost And Found”, and “Creature Of Habit” both lean heavily towards the ex-Orange Juice man. Before this it’s an undecided affair, with the delayed vocals on the lead track “Patience Is A Virtue” perhaps revealing the problem. It’s almost two minutes into this ordinary indie pop song before the vocal appears and it’s as if they couldn’t decide who should take up the vocal duties. Jeremy Thoms and Steve Fraser must have agreed to share the job, though they appear to do so reluctantly. Even the guest vocal of Paul Haig (who has collaborated significantly with The Cathode Ray band over the years) doesn’t help, although this somewhat iconic artist enhances the later tracks by his presence. It’s a similar state of affairs until “Lost…” brings joy and vibrancy to the proceedings.

It is a wake up call for anyone listening, and from thereon this rather dull undertaking is transformed. It’s as if the band shook off a grey cloak and adopted a shiny new suit instead. They simply go from strength to strength, washing away the memory of those earlier tracks in their wake, as these tender anthems pull you gently apart.

 

 

Is This Music LogoAlbum review by Roy Moller, IS THIS MUSIC? March, 2012. Rating:****

Say “The Cathode Ray”. Makes you think of television, right? Listen to The Cathode Ray. Kinda makes you think of Television, right?  Right. And a whole lot more angsty late 70s guitar pop, besides. Well, check the credentials….

Formed by ex-Josef K frontman Paul Haig and another highly-capable guitarist/vocalist, Jeremy Thoms, The Cathode Ray are now fronted by Thoms alone, Haig having left to continue his solo career.

Haig’s influence is still felt. As well as guesting on vocals and guitar, he co-writes the majority of the material here, and tracks such as ‘Get A Way’ and ‘Slipping Away’ could nestle snugly into a top drawer Haig release.

In their own right, however, the Cathode Ray have delivered an assured debut, which displays the riches on offer when inventive imagination is harnessed to a tight framework.

Opener ‘Patience Is A Virtue’ sets out their store enticingly. After an elongated entrance, like the Thin White Duke landing by helicopter in a Morricone-scored space western, Thoms’ vocals enter with a Magazine menace.

Throughout the album, Thoms displays a beguiling conspiratorial air, reaching its zenith on the sly ‘Creature of Habit’, which grooves on a thrilling ensemble performance. This is what pedigree sounds like when it gets its plectrum dirty: loping disco riffs from ex-TV21/Bluebells bassist Neil Baldwin, the nimbly economical drumming of David Mack, and the fluid guitars of Thoms and the Scars’ Steve Fraser.

Harnessed to a crisp, translucent production sensibility, yet more highlights, such as super-catchy ex-single Train, and the anthemic no wave disco of ‘All My Highs’ dig in with the perfect ratio of passionate detachment to off-hand commitment.

The Cathode Ray? Well and truly switched on.

Album review by Rik Wolters, THE SOUND PROJECT, March 2012. Rating: ****

Six years in the making, The Cathode Ray’s eponymously-titled debut album has been well worth the wait.

Originally formed as a writing project between singer-songwriter Jeremy Thoms and former Josef-K front-man Paul Haig, The Cathode Ray have received a welcome reception since the release of their debut double A-side single, ‘What’s it All About/Mind’ (Pronoia), back in late 2006.

Haig has since quit the band, citing a desire to work on his own rejuvenated solo career as the reason for his departure, leaving Jeremy Thoms to step forward to take over as lead vocalist.

The album itself is a resounding success. Opener ‘Patience is a Virtue’, is pure indie-pop;  Thoms angsty vocals wrap around guitars which sound like they could have been ripped from Orange Juice at their prime.  Further nods to Edwyn Collins and co can be found on the Thoms-penned ‘Dispersal’.

The band have a retro yet modern feel, which is highlighted on ‘Train’, a good old fashioned three minute guitar pop song, which has a sound reminiscent of later period Beach Boys.

‘Around’, for me, is one of the albums best moments – Thoms’ vocals reach a new high (or low as it would be).  The song itself is new wave soul and features the backing vocals of Thoms’ wife Laura.

The album’s new wave sound is at its best on ‘Lost and Found’ and ‘Creature of Habit’ – both of which profit from Steve Fraser’s distinct guitar sound with its throw-backs to Magazine and the Velvets.

A Talking Heads influence is evident in Thoms’ vocals on the superb ‘All My Highs’, a track that still features the guitars and backing vocals of Haig. ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘Get A Way’, both sound like something Haig would have written in his Josef-K heyday.

The album’s climax, ‘The Race’, is the ultimate stand out in an album that is full of them.  It’s something of a rock-ballad, but in the way early 2000s Bowie would have done it.  Vocally it’s as astute as anything Thoms has done before (of which there is a vast back catalogue) and is the perfect end to one of the best debuts you’re likely to hear this year.

PennyBlackLOGOJeremy Thoms interviewed by John Clarkson, PENNY BLACK MUSIC, October 2011

When post-punk guitar act the Cathode Ray started out in 2006, it was to an enormous wave of publicity and expectation. A double A-sided single, ‘What’s It All About?/Mind’, was released that year to much acclaim and extensive airplay. The Cathode Ray had begun as a songwriting project between Edinburgh-based musicians Paul Haig and Jeremy Thoms, but, with bassist Neil Baldwin and drummer David Mack also becoming involved, was soon heralded as cult star and solo artist Haig’s first group in twenty five years and since his original band, the short-lived but influential Josef K, had broken up in 1981. The notoriously reclusive Haig, however, felt uncomfortable about being in another group and, although he and the Cathode Ray had recorded an album’s worth of songs together, decided to quit the project.

“It all got out of hand,” says Jeremy Thoms simply, who has taken over as leader and front man of the Cathode Ray and whose eponymous debut album will finally be released early next year. A boyishly-exuberant, dryly humorous man in his late forties, he is talking to Pennyblackmusic in a bar in the West End of Edinburgh. It is a few days after the release in early October of ‘Train’, the Cathode Ray’s third single and their first with Thoms on lead vocals.

“Paul and I regarded the Cathode Ray initially as a songwriting and studio recording project, but it grew legs. We thought that it would be good to enlist a live rhythm section in it as we decided that our songs really needed that four-guys -in-a-room mentality. A lot of the confusion of what the band is or was started then as Paul decided that the Cathode Ray was simply a writing vehicle for him and he didn’t want to be in another band.”

Haig had spent the last fifteen years focusing on electronic instrumental music and recording ‘Cinematique’, a trio of albums in an imaginary soundtracks series. This confusion was heightened further when as part of his solo career he returned to making vocal-led and then guitar-driven music and in quick succession fired out three albums, ‘Elektronik Audience’ (2007), ‘Go Out Tonight’ (2008) and ‘Relive’ (2009) and, then after an absence of nineteen years, also decided in 2008 to start playing gigs again.

“Paul got the bug to do some gigs under his own name,” Thoms laughs, describing the ensuing tour. “And this confused people even further because it was the same line-up of me and Neil Baldwin and David Mack that appeared on the original Cathode Ray recordings except we were called ‘Paul Haig’. Those gigs were very much about Paul and, although some reviews called us the Cathode Ray, we deliberately didn’t do any Cathode Ray songs. He was doing a lot of Josef K stuff as well as his own material, and to do the Cathode Ray as well would have over extended the spectrum.”

“In the mean time we didn’t know quite what we were going to do. We knew that the songs were really good and Paul was certainly very encouraging about us using the songs, but he didn’t want to go on the road with the Cathode Ray or be in another band, so we eventually decided to keep the songs and to do it ourselves.”

Jeremy Thoms, who is originally from Aberdeen, moved to Edinburgh in 1982 as it had a wider focus for music. As well as playing guitar and keyboards and touring the UK twice with the Revillos under the pseudonym of Fabian Wonderful in 1985 and then guitar off and on for much acclaimed indie band Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes for a year between 1989 and 1990, the versatile Thoms has worked in a variety of other local Edinburgh bands, sometimes as the front man and at other times as a musician. These have included the Pretenders/Blondie-influenced A Girl Called Johnny; electronic/dance act Paparazzi; the Beach Boys and Zombies-inspired Naturals; the country and western-influenced New Leaf with whom he recorded three albums in the mid 1990s, and classic rock act Skyline with whom he also released a further two albums.

Neil Baldwin has appeared in several of these bands with Thoms. He was also the bassist in 80’s pop act the Bluebells, appearing on their chart album ‘Sisters’, and until recently was in Edinburgh-based post-punk veterans TV21, who reformed after an absence of over two decades in 2005 and released their second album, ‘Forever 22’, in 2009 twenty seven years after their debut, ‘A Thin Red Line’. David Mack has been another regular on the Edinburgh scene and was the drummer in Skyline.

With Paul Haig gone, Thoms enlisted Steve Fraser into the group. Fraser was in early 80’s Edinburgh post punk band the Scars and also worked with Mike Scott before he formed the waterboys.

“Steve and I had been moving along on parallel lines for years, but we had never actually met each other,” Thoms explains. “But then we bumped into each other at a TV21 gig two and a half, three years ago and I said, ‘Look. We have got this project which on hold at the moment. Would you be interested?’ and he straightaway jumped at it and said yes. He had heard the first single, and the second single, ‘Slipping Away’, was just out at that point. It came together really quickly after that. We started rehearsing with Neil and Dave and had a new band.”

“I tend to fall into singing if there is no one else around, and certainly when Paul left I stepped up to it,” he says about his decision to take over as front man in the band. “When we started doing the Cathode Ray, Paul was going to do most of the singing, but right at the moment I am enjoying doing the vocals.”

The Cathode Ray describe themselves on their Facebook and MySpace pages as being informed by acts such as the Velvet Underground, Stooges, Buzzcocks, Wire and Talking Heads. They, however, solder these influences together with the sounds and influences of Thoms’ and the other members of the group’s previous bands.

‘Train’, for example, is a breakneck, jangling new wave number that in its last minute throws in a set of Beach Boys harmonies. Forthcoming album track ‘Patience is a Virtue’, merges its sinister, dirge-like tune with sudden eruptions of chiming Spaghetti Western guitars and spiralling gushes of electronica, and ‘Lost and Found’, another number from the debut album, mixes together licks of grinding guitar with glistening dance beats.

“When Paul and I started the band we talked about how much we liked the music of both Manchester and New York in the late 70’s,” Thoms reflects. “You had the Buzzcocks and Joy Division at one level and then Television and Richard Hell and the Voidoids at the other. Those two things were in many ways our main influences, but I am also a huge Beach Boys and Beatles fan and like a lot of 60’s stuff. I like a lot of 80’s electronic stuff too and so a lot of other things have come to the table inevitably. I think that a lot of the best pop music works in that way. You start out with one thing and then it goes adrift.”

Thoms decided to scrap the original recordings of the group which featured Haig on vocals, and to rework them to represent the new line-up of the band.

“There are eight songs of the thirteen on the album which originate from Paul’s time in the band, but he appears on just three backing vocals,” he says. “Those three songs were recorded maybe five years ago and have survived intact, mainly because I did all the lead vocals and Paul’s actual contribution to it was backing vocals.”

“We decided on the ones where he had done the most noticeable lead vocals to leave them out. The first single, ‘What’s It All About?/Mind’, had been around for a while and so we just took it off it. On the second single, ‘Slipping Away’, the backing track is the same, but we replaced it with a new vocal. ‘Around’, another of the tracks, also featured a vocal by Paul, but I re-recorded that too. We looked at it as a way of giving the band an identity. We felt that would confuse things if we had this line-up and there were all these vocals from Paul. He is credited on it as a guest appearance on backing vocals and guitar and obviously for writing some of the tunes, so his presence is still there, but the album is certainly very clearly me, Neil, Dave and Steve.”

In Steve Fraser, Thoms has found a natural creative counterpart.

“I will demo stuff and then we develop it in the rehearsal room,” he says, explaining how the new line-up of the Cathode Ray writes their songs. “Steve Fraser has been a great addition in terms of arrangements and embellishing tunes. I will have a few riffs and the lyric and the melody and so on, but he will usually bring in something else to it which I wouldn’t have thought of.”

“He will often make things more angular. We have, for example, got a new song which we have just finished, although it is too late for the album. It sounded like early Floyd, and then Steve threw some stuff on it which was more like what John McGeoch would do and he completely changed it. His way of working with me is probably quite similar to the way that Graham Coxon worked with Damon Albarn. I get the impression that Damon would take a tune and give it its melodic sensibility, and then Graham would mutate and stretch it.”

There is no animosity between Thoms and Paul Haig and they remain close friends. The Cathode Ray started playing gigs for the first time last year and Haig has been along to shows.

“I think that some people think that Paul is going to jump up on stage and join in something like ‘Fame’,” Thoms quips. “It is not going to happen. I think the Cathode Ray did get him back into the idea of singing and doing guitar stuff though after all the instrumental and soundtrack material that he had been doing. He really didn’t like the idea of singing at all at one point or even the sound of his own voice. The process of us doing these tunes, however, got him back into doing that and he also fell in love with the guitar all over again which he wasn’t really using at that point. It was an inspiration to him as when we weren’t doing the Cathode Ray he started to get back into his own song writing. I think that he would probably agree with that. It gave him a gentle push.”

“People often leave bands,” Thoms concludes. “It is all part of the creative process. People have to be happy and if you are not 100% maybe sometimes it is best to back out. Everyone is happy now. It has really worked out very well for everyone.”

‘The Cathode Ray’ will come out, like ‘Train’, on Thoms’ own label Stereogram Records in March of next year. The group also hope to be playing dates in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and London to promote it. It has been a long time coming, but for Jeremy Thoms it has been worth the wait.

mudkiss
MUDKISS FANZINE INTERVIEW MARCH 2013
“SHINING A LIGHT ON THE CATHODE RAY, AS THEY LAY BELIEF ON ME” : INTERVIEW BY CHUMKI BANERJEE

With their enigmatic mix of analogue and digital, sixties charisma, seventies style and modern day sophistication, The Cathode Ray endeared me from first note, so I was filled with excitation when they agreed to an interview. Now that I find they share many of my passions, including Bowie, Banshee, Blondie, Roxy, pasta, kedgeree, red wine and whisky, I am even more enamoured, so please read on and enjoy the exchange as much as I did.
Hello Cathode Ray, though your light reached my dimension many moons ago, sparking imagination, firing synapses with curiosity, I apologise that it has taken so long to travel to this interview. Also, I must admit to woeful gaps in my musical education; a classical introduction jumping several eons to land in Bowie, Banshee era, inspired in part by penchant for eyeliner and spiked heels; leaves black hole at its core, into which pours infinite stream of music, forever chasing history, my ride is often randomly and recklessly inclined, its trajectory uncertain. Luckily, there are seasoned time travellers, who sometimes guide my craft, with whom I hitch a ride, the estimable Vic Goddard being one, whose tail lights fortuitously led me to your door, when I reviewed your singles, ‘Dispersal’: ‘…tantalisingly tempting fusion of ‘Rip It Up’ Orange juice with Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and Devo…coolly captivating…poetic lyricism…. saunters sunnily along, captivating my heart, refreshingly unpretentious yet clearly committed….’ and ‘Train’/ ‘Around’: ‘…rock and roll sunshine intriguingly overcast with darker shadow… genius of a song which insinuates itself in crevices of the mind, with its catchy , sexy, sunny theme, menaced by surprising twist…. the more I listen to Cathode Ray the more they slowly reveal, bursting into brilliance, mirror and smoke, things are not as they seem, classy classics remade, turned on their heads….’
CHUMKI: Firstly, the inevitable and possibly indefinable enquiry, ‘who are you?’Leaving aside the existential, who are the band members and what are your roles?
CATHODE RAY: We are: Jeremy Thoms: Songwriter; Lead Vocals; Guitar & Keyboards. Steve Fraser: Lead Guitar; Backing Vocals, il Baldwin: Bass, Dave Mack: Drums, Percussion & Electronics.
CHUMKI: You are all seasoned musicians, that much I know, what are your musical backgrounds and how has fate led you to this stellar ‘Cathode Ray ‘conjunction?
JEREMY: The band has been in existence in some form or other since 2005. My past endeavours include The Presidents Men; The Revillos; A Girl Called Johnny (with Neil); Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes; New Leaf (with Neil) and Skyline (with Dave). I’d known Neil and Dave for a while and played with both of them individually in the bands mentioned above. Steve was a new collaborator when he joined. I don’t know whether it was fate – maybe it was!
DAVID: In the 80s I played with Edinburgh Band The Twinsets and met Jeremy through a kind of Twinsets re-union several years later. Cathode Ray is the most recent of several collaborations since.
NEIL: TV21, The Bluebells, A Girl Called Johnny and New Leaf. Steve: The Belsen Horrors, Scars, Mike Scott and Jayne County amongst others.
CHUMKI: How many releases have you had as a band and for anyone new to you, what would you recommend they listen to?
JEREMY: So far, five singles and one album. Best place to start is with the album ‘The Cathode Ray’, recommended as a whole.
CHUMKI: How did each of you come to the realisation that music is your raison d’être and what paths did you take to realise your potential?
JEREMY: I think I realised at a very young age that music would be my raison d’être. The paths we’ve all taken I guess are explained above in our collective histories.
DAVID: As a teenager I got into music, started with a simple desire to be Charlie Watts. Nothing provokes an emotional reaction faster. Nowadays everybody is in a band; in the 70s it was much less common.
CHUMKI: What music did you each grow up with and how important was music in your formative years?
JEREMY: For me music was absolutely crucial from a very early age. Because I had two older sisters, I was introduced to all kinds of stuff as a kid. I listened mainly to The Beatles and Motown growing up, whilst my taste through the 70s was pretty diverse, including rock (Faces; Stones) pop (Elton John) glam (Bowie; Roxy) soul (Stevie Wonder) prog (Yes; Genesis) punk/new wave (Buzzcocks; Talking Heads) & post-punk (Wire; Magazine) to name just a few favourites.
DAVID: Stones, Beatles, Elton John, Floyd were the first things I consciously pursued. I wanted to look like the Stones as pictured in the Sticky Fingers sleeve liner.
NEIL: Music was everything – I played air guitar in my head before it was even invented! I grew up with Glam, Pop, Rock, Space – Slade, Free, Bowie/Roxy, Hawkwind, Hendrix, Velvets, Kate Bush and lots in between.
STEVE: Syd Barrett; Scott Walker; Iggy Pop; Mott The Hoople, David Bowie, Roxy Music; Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Slits; Wire.
CHUMKI: Is music your full time occupations? If not, have you a plan to ‘make it so’ or, are you quite happy, as things stand? How often do you get together to play and are you friends, outside of the band?
JEREMY: Yes, music is my full time occupation, if you include DJing, which I also do. We get together about once a month (ideally it would be more often, but it’s all our various other commitments allow) and yes, we are most definitely all good friends outside of the band.
DAVID: No, I’m an architect in real life. Have no expectation of making it; too realistic/pragmatic/cynical to think that is likely. Don’t see the others much as I live 180 miles away but did see Jeremy often before we moved south.
NEIL: Not any more – I am a media manager for Shelter Scotland now. Good friends.
STEVE: Yes. Full time musician and guitar teacher.
CHUMKI: What have been your musical influences over the years, both as individuals and as a group, which have moulded the musicians you now are?
JEREMY: Once again, The Beatles would have to be the starting point for me, both as a songwriter and musician. I also vividly remember “Hot Love” by T.Rex inspiring me to make my first attempts at song writing aged 9! My next epiphany was “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart. Since then, artists that have had a definite impact on me include, in no particular order: David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson, Paddy MacAloon, Neil Young, Tom Verlaine, Scott Walker, Mark Hollis, Edwyn Collins, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, Green Gartside, Kevin Rowland and Nick Drake. As a group, I suppose we put all our influences into the blender and we end up sounding like us.
DAVID: Started out being into musicianship as an end in itself. But over the years have come to value ‘the song’ and emotional impact much more – can’t stand shit/trite lyrics.
NEIL: Bass players include: Lemmy, Jim Lea (Slade), Andy Fraser (Free), Bruce Foxton [The Jam]. Also contemporaries like Peter Hook of Joy Division and Les Pattinson of the Bunnymen.
STEVE: 21 guitarists: Mick Ronson; John McKay; Robert Quine; Jody Harris (Contortions)Ricky Gardiner (born in Edinburgh: Low, Lust For Life); Joey Santiago; James Williamson; Carlos Alomar; Brian Setzer; Cliff Gallup; Lee Ranaldo; Thurston Moore; Bruce Gilbert; Glen Buxton; Dick Dale; Syd Barrett; Robert Johnson; Johnny Thunders; Tom Morello; Marc Bolan; Jonny Greenwood.
CHUMKI: I know choice of instrument is a very personal thing, from sound, to feel, to adaptability, to pedigree, so what instruments do each of you currently play and how did you select them? If money were no object, what would be your dream instrument or piece of kit?
JEREMY: I currently play Gretsch Electromatic, Epiphone Special II and Ibanez Silver Cadet guitars through a Fender Princeton amp. Plus I have a Fender Le Brea acoustic which I generally use when writing songs. I’m currently looking for either a Fender Jaguar or Jazzmaster, but my money-no-object instrument would have to be a Gretsch Country Gentleman through a Fender Twin Reverb amp.
DAVID: Kit on the recordings is a vintage American Slingerland jazz/big band type kit with cymbals picked up over the years and a few electronics now and again. Ideal would be a Gretsch.
NEIL: It was a practical choice – I lived in a small village in the Lake District of England and someone had a guitar – we wanted to form a band so I decided to buy a bass and the rest is history! Dream kit – buying an original Baldwin bass guitar and getting my old Ampeg SVT bass stack back 🙂
STEVE: Fender Stratocaster & Gretsch Electromatic electric guitars through a Peavey combo, plus effects board.
CHUMKI: I love your name; in a world of sharp focus uniformity it exudes glow of enchantment, sounds and visions emerging from shivering electron ether, excitedly vibrated; hug of snug analogue warmth in definitive digital days; a time when element of magical mystery, still invoked wonderment; inspiration fired by inconsistency and idiosyncrasy. How did you choose your name?
JEREMY: We wanted something that was retro/futuristic, plus, I guess, it’s a fairly obvious nod to both Television and The Velvet’s Sister Ray. Overall, the main criteria was that it sounded, looked and felt good. I think a band’s name is very important.
CHUMKI: Some people have really strong views, one way or the other, but I must admit equal fascination for analogue instrumentation and digital; electronica is a means of musical expression which entices me, except when it is used indiscriminately for fashion’s sake. What are your views and why?
JEREMY: I personally like a merging of the two. We record using a mixture of both which I think comes across in our sound.
CHUMKI: How did you arrive at your distinctive sound? Is it something which evolved naturally or had you something in mind which you wanted to emulate or develop? I guess you keep on learning and experimenting, so what sort of ideas do you have which are yet to be realised?
JEREMY: The initial idea was a very loose merging of late 70s Manchester with late 70s New York, but once we started recording, our own sound kind of immerged itself. Ideas yet to be realised are the areas we will be exploring on our second album. Basically wider influences with a bigger, broader, bolder scope and probably getting further into that digital/analogue crossover sound.
CHUMKI: Some of your songs include almost cinematic touches, such as ‘Patience Is A Virtue’ with its whirring helicopter blade intro, sci-fi squeal and dramatic spaghetti western guitar. What inspires such illuminating instrumentation? How do you achieve such sounds? Do you make use of electronic technology to expand, explore, enhance, recreate, and integrate with more traditional forms of musical expression? How do you bring an imagining of a sound into actuality?
JEREMY: The inspiration behind some of those sounds does come from cinema, as I’ve always been a big fan of soundtracks by the likes of John Barry, Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann. Sometimes the sounds are achieved by happy accident or by trial and error using old bits of gear, combined with new plug-ins on the laptop. Again, a merging of old and new – analogue and digital. I guess we do use the technology to integrate, as you say, with traditional forms.
CHUMKI: For me, your music; though incorporating many influences and infused with your own particular genre crossing style; quintessentially conjures earlier eras, the sixties, seventies, into New Wave, Avant-garde eighties, concocting new cocktail of intriguing essences. How would you describe your musical soul and the influences which fill and radiate from it?
JEREMY: I would describe it as eclectic – mixing up the old with new. You’re certainly right when you mention the 60s through to the more left field aspects of the 80s – it’s all there in the mix.
CHUMKI: How do you compose your songs? Is it a joint effort or is there a main instigator? Does the musical or lyrical idea come first? How do you develop the theme and instrumentation, so that everyone’s ideas gel into a coherent whole?
JEREMY: I’m the principle songwriter now. In general it’s the music that comes first or occasionally a title. I had “Creature Of Habit” kicking about just as a song title for a while. Once melody lines start to reveal themselves, I’ll write a lyric to fit. I initially record a demo, which I present to the rest of the band and then we develop it from there in the rehearsal room. I always like to take everybody’s ideas on board as much as possible.
CHUMKI: How do you keep your ideas fresh, without falling into a comfortable, formulaic rut?
JEREMY: Just a concerted attempt to not repeat ourselves. I’m very interested in rhythm (having started out as a drummer when I was a teenager) so tempos and rhythm are a very important part of the writing process. We haven’t done a song in ¾ yet so maybe that’s next!
CHUMKI: The sentiments expressed in your songs are highly observational of human nature and circumstance, such as “…nothing lasts for long… before you have to pay… here one minute…. gone the next …ever fleeting… ephemeral… self defeating…” from ‘Dispersal’. What inspires your lyrics? How do you express your thoughts so succinctly and poetically?
JEREMY: I write as honestly as possible, although not all the songs are autobiographical. Some are “story” songs. I get inspiration from all kinds of sources – personal experience, books, films, art etc. I work hard at the lyrics to make them flow well, as I think they are an important integral part to the whole picture. Some bands are happy with throwaway lyrics but not us.
CHUMKI: There must be many musical influences which have touched your lives, both separately and together, how do you integrate them into your own defined style? Do you consciously write to sound a certain way, or is it more freeform?
JEREMY: On our own, all our aforementioned musical influences might appear more obvious. But once they’ve been integrated into the band, in the context of the songs, with the four of us added our own individual inputs, something special happens. I might be partly conscious of a desire to sound a particular way, but overall, I would say that it was mainly freeform.
DAVID: Freeform I’d say.
NEIL: The style of music reflects the period we were starting out in the music scene – late 70s/early80s.
CHUMKI: What are the themes that spark your imaginations, both musically and lyrically?
JEREMY: I would say the extreme aspects of life that affect the human spirit or condition. Acceptance and alienation, hope and hopelessness, joy and despair, love and hate.
NEIL: Social justice, love, peace, hurt!
CHUMKI: How do you decide which songs to record and how do you construct the order of play?
JEREMY: Once they’ve gone through the demo and rehearsal process, most songs end up getting recorded. It’s during that stage that any weaknesses are usually ironed out. Live, the order of play tends to be dictated by tempo and feel, breaking up any songs that are similar to each other to avoid monotony. On album, it’s a similar process, although you can climax with a song like “The Race” on record, which might not work so well in the live context.
CHUMKI: What is your favoured recording technique and, with so many digital bonbons now available, is it tempting to manipulate a live sound, especially when faced with a well stacked, actual or virtual effects rack?
JEREMY: First we record the drums as a ‘live performance’ in the studio, to which the rest of us play along with as ‘guide’ tracks. Once we have the drum tracks, they are imported into a laptop and we replace/add our individual parts. We treat individual instrumental tracks using both actual and virtual effects, depending on what sounds best in the context of the track.
CHUMKI: Though I love all your songs for the way they take traditionally captivating rock and roll riffs and licks, and somehow subvert them; for their succulent bass lines; their tantalising guitar speak: enticing effects; beguiling drums; creeping, leery vocals; touches of my heroes, Bowie, Bolan, early Roxy, Television, Velvets, Devo, even Bow Wow Wow and Blondie; the gritty, warped sound; sense of theatrical dramaticism, anarchism; the lyrical themes; I am especially enamoured by the track ‘Creature of Habit’ for its Bowiesque feel; ‘Around’ for perversion of lilting love song, mesmerising, sashaying it into Sixties noire, with sinister vocal and rattle snake tambourine shake; and deeply languorous ‘The Race’, which runs thrilling shiver down my spine, with its lingering finger of Bowie.
What are the stories behind those songs? Do each of you have a favourite Cathode Ray song; which and why?
JEREMY: ‘Creature Of Habit’ started out as a simple dance track. A friend of mine asked me if I could come up with something along the lines of Modjo or Moloko – dance, but incorporating guitars. Nothing really came of that, but I liked the riff a lot so I added the choruses and took it to the band where we developed a 1978 Blondie/Stones/Chic disco feel. With ‘Around’ I seem to recall initially trying something with a ‘Loaded’ Velvets vibe, but once the track developed, that Spaghetti western ending and Steve’s solo took it somewhere else completely. By the time we came to ‘The Race’, I remember thinking we needed a slow song to close the album and something that was quite distinct from the other tracks. I guess Floyd and Bowie come to mind, but the stop/start breaks were definitely a nod towards the more prog end of the spectrum like Rush or King Crimson. The very quiet talking that you can faintly hear in the background during the solo was inspired by Faust, who incorporated all kinds of strange things like that into their work. I like the playfulness of it. My favourite songs are probably ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘Lost & Found’ for its slightly unorthodox arrangement plus instrumental and vocal layered production textures, but I’m really too close to the songs and it changes all the time.
DAVID: Favourites are ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘Around’.
NEIL: ‘Slipping Away’ – it always sounds brilliant when we play it live – I enjoy its pulsing heaviness, contrasted with jaunty verse and the multiple melodic interplay going on! I also think ‘Around’ is brilliant with Steve’s towering guitar line at the end!
CHUMKI: What music, apart from The Cathode Ray, are you each enjoying at the moment, or forms the backdrop to your lives?
JEREMY: I always listen to a vast array of old and new music. New bands that have grabbed my attention include Toy, Tame Impala and Pond, plus recent releases from Dexys, Spiritualized, High Llamas and Neil Young.
DAVID: Currently engaged by ‘Spirit of Eden’ (Talk Talk), ‘Heroes’ (Bowie), ‘The Lion’s Roar’ (First Aid Kit) and the first Petunia and the Vipers album.
NEIL: We Were Promised Jetpacks, Nick Cave.
STEVE: The Sexual Objects live; new Wire album.
CHUMKI: Are any of you involved in other music projects or solo ventures?
JEREMY: The Fabulous Artisans www.facebook.com/fabulousartisans
NEIL: I play bass in TV21 www.myspace.com/tv21official
STEVE: Bass in Dirty Harry (Blondie tribute www.dirtyharryblondietribute.co.uk Guitar in The (legendary) Ettes. www.myspace.com/thelegendaryettes
CHUMKI: What is The Cathode Ray up to at the moment, musically and what plans do you have for the future?
JEREMY: We’ve been rehearsing new material over the last few months and have just started recording our second album. Plans for the future basically involve building on the inroads we’ve made with the first album, and hopefully reaching a wider audience.
CHUMKI: Bearing in mind two great passions of mine, music and food, what would be your desert island discs, those you could not live without and your last meal, before being abandoned to solitary contemplation?
JEREMY: Far too many to choose from, but some Desert Island Discs of mine would have to include: ‘Surf’s Up’ – The Beach Boys; ‘Witchita Lineman’ – Glen Campbell; ‘Dying Day’ – Orange Juice; ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ – David Bowie; ‘Dead Souls’ – Joy Division; ‘Mandolin Wind’ – Rod Stewart; ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ – Scott Walker; ‘Cortez The Killer’ – Neil Young; ‘Northern Sky’ – Nick Drake; ‘Amelia’ – Joni Mitchell and ‘Marquee Moon’ – Television. Last meal’s a tricky one too – a well-made Lasagne with garlic bread and salad, washed down with a good red wine is pretty hard to beat.
DAVID: Meal would be a good kedgeree. Eight tunes at random might include: ‘Small Hours’ – John Martyn; ‘On Saturday Afternoons in 1963’- Rickie Lee Jones; ‘Edith and the Kingpin’ – Joni Mitchell; ‘This Woman’s Work’ – Kate Bush; ‘Street Fighting Man’ – The Rolling Stones; ‘Wood Beez’ – Scritti Politti; ‘Babylon Sisters’ – Steely Dan and ‘Black Milk’ – Massive Attack.
NEIL: ‘Heroes’ – Bowie, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – Joy Division. Greek Mezees and Lamb Stiffado followed by cheese board – with a large glass of red and a vintage malt whiskey!
STEVE: ‘I Gotta Right’ – The Stooges; ‘The Idiot’(Lp) – Iggy Pop; ‘Complete Control’ – The Clash ; John Peel Sessions – The Slits.
CHUMKI: Finally, nosy as I am, how do you know the magnificent Vic Goddard and what do you think of his ‘Sect’? Have you ever joined forces or would that be A (fr) Ray in the Subway? (sorry, couldn’t resist)
JEREMY: I don’t know Vic personally, just through social media and he happens to be my sister’s postman! Been a big fan of his work ever since ‘Ambition’ – I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of joining forces at some point in the future.
CHUMKI: Thank you Cathode Ray for your patience, inspirational answers and forbearance in face of my impertinence. I look forward to listening to your choices and to receiving more broadcasts beamed from your time warp mother ship.
Interview by Chumki Banerjee