The dichotomy between the consistent quality of their records, and their undeniable oddness has come to define The Cat Empire throughout their 17 years of working in the music industry. Each of their albums explores a slightly different style, whilst maintaining a solid level of quality, with no one album standing out as particularly strong or weak in their discography. Rising With The Sun largely continues this trend, evolving the sounds of Steal The Light, whilst mixing in aspects of all their previous records.
Opening track Wolves evokes the synth-driven funk of Steal The Light, with the thumping 4/4 drums of the chorus bringing the group as close to modern pop as they’ve ever been. Bulls feels like a return to the Latin flavour of Two Shoes, with the screeching horns of their debut album. It’s easily the most exuberant song on the album, and the transition from rising piano chords to the Mariachi-styled horns of the chorus is a truly joyous moment, that stands up to repeat listens. The double-time outro, where drums gallop over organ chords shows a rare structural experiment for the band, who rarely stray outside of typical verse/chorus structure.
As an album, Rising With The Sun covers a fairly dizzying array of styles. The looping samples and crunchy beat of Eagle bring it close to something like hip-hop, an impression reenforced by Harry James Angus’ wordy delivery in the verses. The keyboard stabs on the title track evoke French chanson music, and other indie bands like Beirut, and the descending horn line between Felix Reibl’s vocals is striking in its poignancy. You Are My Song almost sounds like house music delivered by a ska band, and like many of the other songs on the album, the horns in the chorus are bright and suitably festive.
Unfortunately, the energy of the album really flags in the final 3 tracks, with lead single Que Sera Ahora feeling particularly lacklustre. It simply feels like a retread of the jazzy alt-rock of Cinema, without the feeling of innovation and fun the other tracks bring. These tracks likely wouldn’t have been as problematic if they were spread throughout the record, but being placed in a clump right at the end of the record causes the last 10 minutes to be something of a slog to get through.
Whilst the album does run out of steam by the end, it generally marks another solid entry in The Cat Empire’s run, and the album’s high points are particularly high (Bulls especially). The record functions as something of a retrospective for all their previous styles, featuring a bit of each album in all the vastly different songs, and whilst it’s not always perfect, the moments that it is are transcendent.