25 November 2017

Chris Catalyst - Life Is Often Brilliant

Chris Catalyst might not be a household name, but he is a person that a lot of people “should “ know.  Formerly known as Robochrist (I still remember seeing him on a tiny stage at Scarborough Castle, painted silver and bat-crap crazy), lead-singer of Eureka Machine and guitarist of the Sisters of Mercy, Catalyst, The God Damn Whores and a thousand other acts (including a rumoured run as a Nameless Ghoul in Ghost on the Popstar tour), you are bound to have seen or heard his music at one point in your life.  Life Is Often Brilliant was funded and released via the PledgeMusic funding site, something that a lot of artists and band are doing these days.  I did pay for this pledge and I have to say, Chris Catalyst more than delivered in terms of access and bonus features.  As well as the album, you got bonus tracks, you got the Robochrist EP (eeekkkkk), you got the Catalyst songs and that was only on the download pledge.  If I had the money, I would have gladly paid for me.  But now I have seen the album is in the shops, you can purchase it from the mighty machine called Amazon.  Seeing it in the shops, with that beautiful sunflower on the cover, jogged my memory and reminded me that I still had to finish this review.  Well, it’s better late than never, let’s have a look at how this record has turned out.

01 – No Regrets

“No Regrets” is a classic rock number, with a bit of a Brit-rock edge to proceedings.  You cannot mistake the writing skills of the Eureka Machine lynchpin, but this has a different energy to that outfit.  It is a tale of reaching that part of your life where everything has changed, how the modern world is confusing and how it can all be too much.  It is a stomping number, with a hint of nostalgia, determination and a fighting spirit being worn down as well.  I like it, it’s a solid song that opens this album with style.

02 – Same Old Sun

“Same Old Sun” is a song about reaching out for help, just needing to get through that part of the night when the light is not quite there, to think for yourself and look after yourself too.  This is not a punk number, bouncing from side to side, but it is not a slow sludge minster either.  It is a rock song that hits all the right notes, making me personally want to sing along when it gets to the chorus.

03 – Cracking Up

With a fade in of feedback, “Cracking Up” comes along with a lot of positivity to the music, but just like the Smiths before them, lyrically it is all doom and gloom.  It is a jolly song about having a breakdown, with everything going to shit.  So, it is confirming what you know, but it is also giving you a feel-good tune to help you on your way.  I like this song a lot, there is something quintessentially British about making misery sound so happy.

04 – Yeah – Oh No

“Yeah – Oh No” is all about the internal fight that can occur when depression strikes, having to stand up to your own fears and say that this is not going to last.  It is another stomping song, one of the best on the record as it swirls around and it sounds glorious!  It also continues the “miserably happy” feeling of the album, but it’s showing that it is possible to make a positive out of a negative, what it there not to like about that!

05 – Wake Me Up on Monday

“Wake Me Up on Monday” is the nearest that this album comes to having a Big Starr/Teenage Fanclub Power Pop/Rock number and it is also my favourite of the album.  It just brings a sense of sunshine to my world each time it’s played, even though Monday’s can be the most hated of days to some people.  But Mr Catalyst has created a joyful number here, with a great little solo in the middle and a chorus that should come with a health warning, as it is so catchy!

06 – How Do You Sleep

“How Do You Sleep” goes for broke as we reach the halfway point of this record, bringing in some luscious strings, a sense of anger and exasperation at someone who is being a complete cock-womble.  Sure, there is anger in this song, but it’s taken that shitty situation and turned it into a positive – i.e., the song gets his point across and it sounds brilliant.  The ending is something that I could put on repeat for hours, it is that good.

07 – Distance Over Time

“Distance Over Time” starts the second half of the record with an acoustic opening, which leads to one of the darkest moments on this album.  There is an edge to this song, but it is in keeping with the rest of the album.  There’s a sadness to this number, but whilst you can engage with the sadness to a certain degree when the music is this good, it’s sort of hard not to smile when it’s being played.  I think that says more about me than the song, but I do love numbers such as this.  They end up being sleeper hits, ones that live a massive impression on you, they sink into your subconscious and usually end up becoming one of your favourite songs on the album.  I’m slowly finding the same with “Distance Over Time”.

08 – I Hope We Always Stay the Same

Continuing the slower theme of “Distance Over Time”, “I Hope We Always Stay the Same” is a psychedelic daydream incarnate, complete with a gorgeous breakdown of reality and fantasy.  There is a wish for nothing to change, but this is never possible, and it has a unique heartbreak in the sound.  This is another gem in the sea of precious stones, one that would not be out of place on a Pink Floyd or Beatles album, but it’s at home on Life Is Often Brilliant!

09 – Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and Stones” brings the rock back to proceedings, this Power Pop number is another song that is steeped in the classic sound of earlier recordings, but with that modern sound that gives it a warm feeling.  This song has such a cool, tripping sound, that you could be accused of looking over the words, which are pretty harsh in places.  You have a feeling that Mr Catalyst is not someone to fuck with, as he puts his point across incredibly well on this brilliant tune.

10 – Far

“Far” is a natural follow-on to “Sticks and Stones”, with a song about needing space and alone time every now and then.  It’s one that does not feel as natural as the other songs which preceded it, not sure why either as I cannot put my finger on what is not sitting well.  Sometimes a song just doesn’t work for you, sadly this is one of those times.

11 – You Die at the End

“You Die at the End” is a song about the reality of life, in order to live, one must die.  There are no two ways about it, it’s the only certainty in the universe that all things much reach a conclusion.  Mr Catalyst has created a song which mourns those lost to the void, looks towards the curtain invisible and is ready for the future.  Ok, it’s not the more cheerful number on the album, but it’s one of the best songs on here, also – Mr Catalyst does love a long, drawn-out ending.  Not saying I don’t either, but there is a lot of them on this record.

12 – Able Seamen

“Able Seamen” is a gentle ending to this record, another piece of reflective music, a piano based number that looks around and it’s trying to make sense of a word that is surrounded in darkness.  It guides the listener home gentle, ending this album with a pause instead of a bang.

Life Is Often Brilliant is an album that has its roots in the past, but it brings them right up to date.  You can tell that Chris Catalyst is cut from the same cloth that brought us Drowning Poole, Honeycrack, and yes, The Wildhearts as well.  But his style also has a different twist – there is a personal feeling to this album that makes it hard to ignore in 2017.  Considering my first introduction to the sound of this man was Robochrist, it couldn’t be further apart unless he released an album of Deep House music.  I like this record, it is just a pure rock album, one that gently reminds you that it’s not all that bad at times.  Because it cannot always be rain and progressive jazz, sometimes you need to look around a little and see the good things around you.  Over the months since it was first released, I have come to appreciate its charms, it’s as unique and special as anything his contemporaries have released via PledgeMusic.  I like this album an awful lot, it is a ray of sunshine on any day and it has been a pleasure to review it again, I’m just sorry that my original got lost in the void.  Either way, I had an excuse to listen to this gem of a Power Pop/Rock record and it is glorious!

8.5 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track – Wake Me Up on Monday

You can purchase Life Is Often Brilliant on Amazon here.

You can visit the Chris Catalyst website here.

You can follow the activities of Chris Catalyst on Facebook here.

You can stream Life Is Often Brilliant on Spotify here.

You can stream Life Is Often Brilliant on Deezer here.

You can stream Life Is Often Brilliant on Tidal here.

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