Nightmare and the Cat - Simple
Record Label: Capitol
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Let’s face it, the offspring of popular musicians have the distinct advantage of making a sizable dent on the Billboard charts without really trying. Whether that dent is a credit to their famous parents or just strong DNA, if your father or mother was a famous rocker you’ve got a distinct leg-up on your competitors. your Dad co-founded Eurythmics and your Mom sang for Bananarama, you’re damn well destined to make some rather good racket.
The core of Nightmare and the Cat are vocalist Django Stewart and his brother Samuel Stewart, progeny of Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart and Bananarama singer Siobhan Faey. Given that music lineage, they’re damn well destined to make some rather good racket. And Simple absolutely does.
The album opens with the title track, a celestial-cum-nocturnal cut that is dramatic, moody and absolutely luminescent. After an extensive opening minute of celestial noise, the song yields to a swirling parade of synths, shimmering guitars and an abundance of charisma. Equal parts gorgeous, hazy and vernal, “Simple” is an absolute goldmine and an arresting way to open an album. The quintet dives into British agit-pop on the urgent and direct “Desert Heir,” a commercial and bouncy affair that is hip-shaking and accessible. Though it is far from the album’s best work its a good device for keeping the album moving forward.
The Stewart brothers have been well-documented as citing a love for the 60s pop of both The Ronettes and the Crystals and the synth-driven banger “Goodbye So Many Times,” is an homage to that vibe. Simple’s first act concludes with the tinny and twee “Undercover,” a hollow hammer about a clandestine love affair that comes across as far too self-indulgent to be worth repeated listens. Thankfully, the band recovers on the antic and concussive “Sarah Beth” a song which opens hazy and nostalgic but evolves into something concussive and carnal. In many ways, the song is a chance for the band to flex their musical muscles and prove that they are much more than languorous dream-pop.
The second half (and easily the album’s stronger half) of Simple bubbles forward with the lush and harmonic “Traditions” a breezy summer singalong that is as effortless as it is charming. “Traditions” is also proof positive that when the band hits their stride, they are as consistent as any other California pop band currently making music. After a percussive start, “Blackbird Smile,” dissolves into a kaleidoscopic banner of synths and revisits much of the sun-splashed shine of “Goodbye So Many Times.” Though by now its apparent the Stewart brothers know their way around a pop song, they set out to prove it again on the near-perfect “X’s On Your Eyes,” a deftly executed totem that firmly announce Nightmare and the Cat as a band to watch in 2014 and beyond.
For as much as Simple is influenced by the band’s love of British tastemakers, there’s a definitive nod towards California’s many musical moods. The most distinct examples are the folky “Mae” and the stomping singalong “Alvarado.” The former is a warm and winsome slice of acoustic summer pop that is hooky, happy and radio-ready, while the latter is a defiant crowd-pleaser that revisits the halcyon days of 1970s Laurel Canyon. Not one to abandon their beloved synths, the quintet leaves it all on the table on the epic closer “Breaking Down the Walls,” a song that is as much an homage to their parents’ musical pallette as it is a reflection of the band’s affinity for modern soundscapes.
When Simple comes to a close it is abundantly clear that Nightmare and the Cat have woven together an album that will leave plenty eager for more. In a year that has already seen them share the stage with the likes of Bastille and Neon Trees, Nightmare and the Cat are more than poised for their close-up. Just a few listens to Simple proves exactly that.
Totally forgot that this came out. Saw these folks and Little Daylight open for Bastille back in September...Bastille had booked that show right before they blew up, so 200 lucky folks in Portland got to see that show. Best pop show I've ever seen.
Really excited to listen to this record. Great review.