That up there is Cathy Davey v2.0 performing in 2007. With the arrival last Friday of her third album The Nameless, we have witnessed the launch of v3.0. Each stage of progression and accompanying album has brought a different side of her into the music and this latest effort is no different, in that… it’s very different. We now are in the presence of a very gifted songwriter who has found a path that is mutually fulfilling for both her and her listeners. After forcing her way into the major leagues with the rhythmic, insistent, quirky pop of Tales of Silversleeve she has taken the opportunity to skew people’s expectations with an album of mangled pop tunes housed in creaking, old-fashioned arrangements with new pieces glued on. In the rush to praise her triumphant second album, her debut Something Ilk was, in my view, unnecessarily slandered. It’s the very things that made that album sound special in 2004 that have come to bloom fully on this album six years later – the peculiar vocal nuances, the ramshackle percussion and her intuitive grasp of how to make simple, direct songs sound life-changingly important.
The Nameless sounds like an album made by an old pro, an experienced legend – comfortable and safe in their status as master of their genre. Cathy and her band play like they’re performing to people from another world, a world in which songs like these are born. The confidence that exudes from every note seems to be as much about not caring what, if anything, others make of it as it is about knowing that these are the songs they long to hear. For some reason, the phrase “crazy on a ship of fools” has been running through my head while I listen to the album. I’m not saying any of them have lost the plot, on the contrary, they’ve really found their collective voice. They sound like a band playing on a sinking ship, with nothing left to lose and everything left to say. It’s not just that the songwriting is a cut above the rest, it’s that Davey now sounds like she’s in her element.
Before her second album was released, I had spent months hopelessly addicted to the demo of that album’s opener “Sing For Your Supper”. I was bowled over by the galloping desperation of the beat and the repeated yelping “Oh no!” during the kitchen sink crescendo. This time around it was the demo of “Little Red” that nested in my brain for the past year with a ragged fairy tale story and a simple vocal melody that’d break most songwriters’ hearts. Whereas “Sing For Your Supper” served as a pecursor to a lesson in vibrant pop on the rest of the album, “Little Red” is just about the pop pinnacle on The Nameless. The rest of the album’s 13 tracks are more akin to the sparse, creeping numbers found in the latter half of that previous album. This album has none of the polished studio band sound or disco-influenced pop. The spooky, ethereal sound of opening tracks “The Nameless” and “Army of Tears” are indicative of what is to come. “Happy Slapping” steps away from the antiquitated atmosphere of the other tracks with a simple, bleeping melody carrying a sweet Casio tune. Towards the album’s end “Lay Your Hand” and “Universe Tipping” are more lush and sraightforward songs of longing and desperation. The key thing throughout is that Cathy sounds like she always wanted to sound and always should have. It sounds like a confessional from a unique and uncompromising performer and that’s exactly what it is.
MP3: Cathy Davey – Dog
The album (in amazing fold-out packaging) is out now in stores and online and should be regarded as an essential purchase for people with ears. Cathy played a stormer of a set in HMV on Grafton Street last Friday in what she said was her first ever instore gig. She liked it so much she’s gracing the cosy corner of Tower Records on Friday at 1:30pm for another one. The main event however will be later on Friday night, which brings me nicely to…
I’ve never done a real live competition on this here blog, but this seems as good a place as any to start. I have 2 free passes for Cathy Davey’s gig in The Olympia Theatre this Friday 14th May. I was considering using the competition for my own delicious gain by giving the prize to whoever made me the nicest carrot cake (NB. I love carrot cake) but that would be mean. Instead a simple question will do.
Q: I recently saw Cathy perform a rare duet with her dog. What is his name?
Stick your answers in the comments below before 6pm Thursday evening. Don’t forget to include a valid email address in the form so I can contact you. Winner will be chosen at random from correct answers and notified no later than 12 noon on Friday 14th. Good luck!