Modern Sky Records (label)
31 March 2020 (released)
Scottish pop-provocateurs Catholic Action issue a call to arms on second album ‘Celebrated by strangers’, baldly decreeing that protest manifests in many forms, an essential one being the artistic equation: reaction = creation.
For frontman Chris McCrory the personal is nothing but political, every song is imbued with a radical zeal: from the class-conscious critique of ‘One of us’ to the music industry machinations and manipulations of ‘Sign Here’ down to the Scottish pro-independence anthem ‘Four Guitars’ this is angry music cloaked in melodic apparel. If we’re going down, we’re gonna dance to our demise. The subtext is that despairingly in the UK, too many are apathetically docile, too inured by tech-consumer capitalism to register dissent: with blind assent the gateway to fascism. History repeats …
Sonic touchstones are compatriots Franz Ferdinand, new wave literati Talking Heads, theatri-Californians Sparks, glam racketeers The Sweet and the effervescent ‘Witness’ deploys a Byrdsian ‘Eight Miles High’ guitar-break. Yet the album never simply mimics, it’s got an open mind and bigmouth of its own.
Opener ‘Grange Hell (South London in D)’ has a touch of Alex Kapranos’s witty ditties albeit here it’s bitterly laced with the sociological summary of ‘sixteen candles and six feet under … die so penniless’. Pace Dylan Thomas, you’re dying the minute you’re born so make it matter.
Standout is ‘People don’t protest enough’. Depending on ‘your’ interpretation this is about the takedown of ‘clicktavism’ that oh-so-now form of virtual virtue signalling, the empty thrill of deferred action and averred engagement via a passed-on petition. Alternatively, it could be about the self-as-commodity-fetishism that travels on the social media Trojan Horse beguiling no one but your ego. Or both?
As McCrory decries the time spent ‘shoegazing in a cul-de-sac of sorts’ we can all relate to the wasted brain cells/sells needlessly relinquished. As someone sagely opined, for the revolution to occur, first you remove the ‘smart’ phone. Sadly it’s about as likely as the incumbetent (sic) Prime Minister ceasing to seed. A nagging, incessant synth-stab holds the song inbetween a stuttering and infectious chorus.
Late-era Beatles informs ‘Sign Here’ a weary-warning of how scribbling on the dotted line will inevitably result in an allotted time, it may be your turn now, but that turn will come back to bite. Twice as hard. Read the smallprint. This effortlessly bleeds into the Pink Floydian ‘There will always be a light’. An eternal flame-thrower.
And on the afternoon of the 9th day, the world listened to Catholic Action.