Caveat: A request to review KateGoes’ debut album Animals Who Want To Be Other Animals was met with an express stipulation from the band that they would sanction a review only upon the precondition that it be written in a (to quote) ‘geordie accent‘. Whether this represents a progressive female re-appropriation of the male critical voice or is a matter of ethics in indie music journalism is open to debate. I will stress that any offence caused by the clumsiness of my aping of the Newcastle accent is wholly unintentional. It is worth noting at this juncture that in order for me to render the review in native dialect I have made recourse to a combination of translation software, academic research and personal observation. Thank you.
A standard English dialect version will run tomorrow.
KateGoes is a cutecair band from Birmingham comprised iv vocalist / pianist Kate Thompson, clarinettist Beth Hopkins an’ guitarist / squeaky toy playa Susie Minneor. Ah forst saaw them back in 2008 in Leeds as the support act fo’ Jeffrey Lewis an’ wes impressed bi thor aggressively winsum combination iv irreverent whimsy, three-piece harmonies an’ bolshy energy, man.
KateGoes hev actually been togethor fo’ a decyed neeo. In the past they’ve performed wi’ fowa / five membaas – the loss iv their drummor ganin sum wa tuh explainin the lang gestation iv this album. Thor hev also been claems iv formin ‘a puppy gaff troupe caaled Dogma whe examine different human psyches throo scientific experiments, neen scientific experiments, the illicit readin an’ reinactin iv personal diaries, live meat sculpture an’ havin their fuzzy wickle tummies tickled’. Sich bold an’ triumphalist claem-makin is typical iv vocalist an’ lyricist Kate Thompson (a similarity she shares wi’ Cardiacs’ Tim Smi’ an’ thor bureaucratic spokespeople The Alphabet Business Concern, like) whe meet be considered tuh be wot is knoon in common parlance as ‘a bustlin gadgie’ – which is tuh sa, a gadgy whe bristles wi’ creative energy tuh the degree that their energy is neet easily restricted tuh a single channel. The tradition that the band performs each iv their shows aroond a theme in full costume (sich as ‘KateGoes Owor T’Rainbow’ an’ ‘KateGoes Clemmie Age’) is testimony tuh this. In this wa, KateGoes reminds wor fair iv the similarly rambunctious Tilly an’ the Waal, whe use a tap dancor (Jamie Pressnall) insteed iv a drummor. While Tilly an’ the Waal is comprised iv ex-primary schyeul teachars, KateGoes soond mare leek prodigiously talented primary schyeul bairns… although their lyrics often cleverly laik this sense iv daft off against mare troublin subject mattor an’ ambivalent emotions man. The band is also close marras iv Misty’s Muckle Adventure (themselves nar na strangars tuh dress-up) an’ hev often toured togethor. Their best knoon sang is undoubtedly ‘Aal Wuh Want Tuh Dee is OH!’, knoon bettor as the theme tune fo’ BBC3 teenage sitcom Comin iv Age, the purile underachievin bairn iv E4’s The Inbetweeners. Mare on this lator an’ all!
Befawa t’late-2014 release iv Animals Whe Want Tuh Be Othor Animals (from heor on in Animals fo’ short) KateGoes had released twa eps, Eye Aye Ha Am Ah? an’ the Happy Dancin EP – charmin an’ spirited releases marred anny by their brevity. Sum iv the tracks on Animals date back tuh nearly a decyed ago, see arguably the’ recaal a time when bands leek the Mouldy Peaches weor popular an’ Juno wes in the gaff an’ basically thor wes a huurl spate iv music deeply indebted tuh the Velvet Undergroond sang ‘I’m Stickin Wi’ You’. Fortunately, KateGoes is specael enough that the’ divvint soond whatsoivvor antwacky amongst today’s releases… or fair, thor’s probably nivvor been a time in which the’ wouldn’t hev sounded fair out o’place. In fact, yen iv the surprises iv the album is canny ha wey it holds togethor as a huurl, considerin its difficult conception. It feels as free an’ breezy as a debut recorded by a band o’bairns across a couple iv afternoons. This is tuh its credit.
Yen thin holdin Animals togethor is the reprisal iv the album’s openin ditty, ‘Austrian Clarinets’, that lator re-emerges as ‘Bavarian Clarinets’. At forst ah wes sceptical that a short 13-track album (one track iv which is silent) cud justify this repetition, spehully considerin that anny yen iv the tracks is longor than five minutes. Howivvor, this infectious wee numbor provides useful anchorage fo’ the album an’ is a neat potted encapsulation iv Katesgoes’ style. ‘Austrian Clarinets’ begins wi’ a jaunty major-scale clarinet tune accompaneed by the shrill chirrupin iv bords. It sounds leek it cud hev been the theme sang fo’ sum 1970s children’s television programme. Personally ah immediately imagined the Herbs‘ Parsley the Leeon frolickin amongst the foliage. At the thirteenth second the clarinet hits wot sounds aabut leek a duff neete, introducin the tiniest sense iv disturbance intee the air. Then t’tune resumes. As it continues, othor instruments join the fray; keyboard an’ drums stottin melodically alang tuh the melody. The tempo gets ah wee bit fastor. The drummin sounds leek it shud belang tuh a mich heavior sang, is aabut breakbeat. The tweetin is suddenly unpleasantly loudor. then, scuzzy distortion, lasor sounds an’ the sang ends wi’ a piano dunsh. The effect is leek bein a toddlor spinnin roond an’ roond an’ the ma at which the experience goes from joyous tuh nauseatin is imperceptible… or ridin a fairgroond carousel an’ havin yor cuddy cum loose from its moorings. Musically a point iv comparison that floats tuh mind is Grandaddy‘s memoryeble ‘A.M. 180′, wi’ its mix iv harmony an’ discordance. ‘Bavarian Clarinets’ is the syem tune but wi’ the drums adoptin a military roll caal an’ the whistle iv bords replaced by the quackin iv ducks. Whethor this is an accurate reflection iv the difference inatween Austrian an’ Bavarian musical traditions ah div neet nar.
The track tha works as a canny litmus test fo’ whethor you’ll enjoy Animals or neet is appropriately enough the title track ‘Animals Whe Want Tuh Be Othor Animals’. This is KateGoes at their most militantly whimsical, tellin the tale iv three animals whe wish tuh be othor animals (a doog whe wants tuh be a dinosaor, a moose whe wants tuh be an army ant an’ a frog whe wants tuh be a porcupine, ah believe). The verses comprise a sweet melody wi’ clip-cloppin percussion, plinky-plonk keyboard an’ trills iv guitar. Backin vocalists (presumably Beth an’ Susie) provide impressively convincin animal neeises. The chorus kicks intee a mich fastor tempo wi’ yelps an’ exclamations from Beth an’ Susie, which is basically delightful an’ yen iv the things KateGoes does bettor than just abyeut any othor band. It’s irresistibly daft an’ oddly disorientin. Thor’s an obvious disconnect inatween the animals’ lives an’ their dreams… indeed, the’ seem tuh want tuh continue wi’ their animal-appropriate behavioors, but in the form iv othor animals, man. See, the moose sings ‘i shud hev been an army ant eatin mouldy cheese an’ chewin bits iv papor up’. Likewese, the doog wants tuh munch on hor ahn kakky an’ laik wi’ hor toys, which sounds far mare leek canine behavioor (yeah, ahm a cat gadgy!) than somethin any self-respectin dilophosaurus wud choose tuh partyck in. The sang is both utterly throw-awa an’ genuinely bewilderin an’ plain odd. Eet recalls t’curious digressions iv Johnny Cash‘s Children’s Album (1975) sich as ‘Why Is A Fire Engine Red?’ an’ ‘The Dinosaor Song’, in which the aad timey voice iv wisdom asks the listenor if wuh had dinosaors as pets, ‘cud the’ git alang wi’ a cuddy an’ a coo?’ Closor tuh hyem, KateGoes’ occasional forays intee wot meet be caaled “novelty songs” (which is, ah think, an uncharityeble an’ patronisin term… an’ kind iv reduces the sheor weirdness iv these songs) is similar tuh those performed by comedy singer-songwritor Ja Foreman, sich as ecological treatise ‘My Screeve Runs On Caterpillar Sick’ an’ the disquietin ‘Skin Sofa’. Leek Johnny Cash an’ KateGoes, Foreman also hez a sang concernin dinosaors.
‘Walkin The Dog’ is similarly animal-centred malarkey an’ possibly me favourite track on the album, as it combines uttor ridiculousness wi’ an undercurrent iv melancholy. It sounds leek a bolshy knees-up half-wa inatween Cardiacs an’ Parklife-era Blor. It hez lots iv interjections an’ soond effects an’ is a wonderfully dense two-minutes iv pop genius coupled tuh an embarrassingly catchy skank rhythm. Kate askses, ‘Why dee ah git see upset? Cud it be cos wuh divvint hev a pet?’ wi’ Beth an’ Susie joinin in sweetly high-pitched harmonies. It also includes a sample iv warra suspect tuh be Barbara Woodhouse’s doog trainin seminars but doon know like. ‘What’s Yen Mare Da iv Crying’ is a twee whistle-a-lang in which Kate informs the listenar: ‘My belly is swollen, me heed anny flops, ahm ganin tuh rip off me face till it stops’. Apart from this troublin interjection, the sang presently a motley assortment iv outcasts an’ ne’er-do-wells that recalls Cardiacs’ ‘In a City Lining’, a sang that profiles Malcolm the bastard whe acts leek Emporor Nero an’ Petor, the blurk whe pretends tuh be a supor hero. Heor the ‘butch baldin bastard’ (!) is Billy, yen iv the singar’s geet best friends, whe hez a problem wi’ pullin at eez hair. Thor’s also Fred the bukkor, whe exploits eez bord carol’s yeast infection tuh shirtliftor up eez fadge. These meet reed leek horrorsha charactor portraits from the likes iv Chris Morris’ Blue Jem but they’re delivered in sich disarmingly canny tones, that the effect is charmin an’ funny, fair than alienatin.
This is a delicate line tuh treed howivvor an’ personally ah think it’s crossed wi’ the enthusiastically gristly an’ disconcertingly chippor ‘Human Safari’, which tells the tale iv a muckle gyem huntor whe torns tuh humans as eez newest prey. This actually be the plot iv the 1932 film The Most Dangerous Gyem, which aimed fo’ philosophical horror, but viewed the’da is probably experienced as a fair staid an’ campy farce. KatesGoes’ sang mentions a skinnd human rug from Syeuth Africa an’ jewellarry myed from teeth… images that recaal an’ aaal closely genuine atrocities committed by despotic warlords fo’ wor tuh find funny. The contrast iv sweet an’ soor topples intee the grotesque, wi’ the song’s upbeat harmonies an’ energetic an’ poppy guitar rhythms. Tuh be fair, the sang contains a satirical edge, wi’ the narrator boastin, ‘no-one cud ivvor sta wor, a’ve got mich mich an’ aaal mich money’ – a line that recalls a previous KateGoes lyric that a gadgy gan be owt the’ want tuh be… as lang as the’ hev ‘enough money’. The main enjoyment ah tek from ‘Human Safari’ (in spite iv a certain queasiness) is imaginin it sung by victorian muckle gyem huntor Charles Victor Alexandor peel, the blurk responsible fo’ the bulk iv Exetor museum’s taxidermy collection. Iv the unfortunate dik-dik (a weeny antelope) shot by Peel an’ preserved in the museum, the blurk wrote in eez diary: ‘Upon encounterin the dik-dik ah wes see struck by its ludicrous appearance that ah cud hardly shyeut strite.’ Peel wes certainly a blurk whe wud hev enjoyed the sordid past-time iv the ‘Human Safari’, as least by me reckonin.
The tunes described above is perhaps the most fool-abyeut on the album, which also includes a numbor iv straightor ballads an’ hin tunes. Ah am unyeble tuh write mich abyeut the impossibly canny ‘Heartbeart’. Fo’ wor it is inextricably intertwined wi’ memories iv a fair away clotty relationship aa’d wi’ a seventeen-year-old lass when ah wes twenty yen – an age gap ah neeo considor utterly inappropriate an’ basically squicky but seemed acceptyeble at the time (although whey aye this is wi’ the hindseet iv a gadgy neor approachin eez 30s). ‘Heartbeat’ wes “oor song”, in as mich as wuh had yen. It hez adorably cutesy couplets sich as ‘you’re the bless yee fo’ me sneeze’, ‘you’re the rice in me krispies’. It’s sung wi’ class delicacy an’ contains the greatest employment iv a squeezy doog toy that ah hev ivvor heard. Me aforementioned ex-partnor also myed innuendo yeut iv yen iv the lines, which is yen iv the othor reasons ah hev fo’ findin it hard tuh listen tuh. But just cos the sang is lost tuh wor forivvor doesn’t mean it shud be fo’ anybody else!
‘Scribble Wor Down’, th’second track on the album, is a groovy piece iv kitschy 1960s-throwback pop wi’ a bass line that sounds leek it belongs in a sang by The Jam. Musically, it’s a joy, but the lyrics is curiously self-negatin… the singor askin the song’s target tuh culor hor in an’ give hor freckles cutely evokes the exploits iv 1989 children’s cartoon heroine Penny Crayon, whe cud brin tuh life owt she wes yeble tuh draaw. As the lyrics progress howivvor the’ seem tuh describe a one-sided emotionally-dependent relationship: ‘I faal doon if yee divvint prop wor up. Ah wanted yee tuh create wor see ah coined intee a bairn. Carve wor yeut an’ then smyeuth wor doon wi’ yor sculptor’s hands.’ This is the syem disturbin territory previously charted by the Velvet Underground’s ‘I’ll Be Yor Mirror’, anuthor utterly canny soundin sang that becomes mare an’ mare disturbin the mare yee think abyeut it. Meanwhile, ‘Love On Yor Own’ is mare straight-forwardly palatyeble, a pleasin strum-a-lang guitar ballad abyeut unreciprocated passion an’ suburban ennui. In parts it sounds leek somethin penned by The Shaggs, though mare conventionally tuneful (I suspect that KateGoes leek The Shaggs). Also, ah cannit wark yeut whethor it contains a reference tuh Channel 4’s archaeological excavation-fest Time Team.
‘Complicated Head’ is a restless, jazzy ode tuh the creative struggle. Assumin that Kate wrote the lyrics it helps support me earlior claims abyeut hor feverish but sporadic creative energy, wi’ Kate exclaimin ‘theor is see mich stuff ah want tuh put intee this sang that ah myek it mich an’ aaal crammed an’ it aaal comes yeut wrang.’ Appropriately enough the sang is crammed tuh the gills wi’ instrumentation (both backwards an’ forwards), wee flurries iv orchestration an’ percussion, soond effects an’ aaal sorts iv malarkey! It’s geet engagin but fair overwhelmin, which wes likely the intention. It sounds fair a lot leek Frank Zappa at eez most manic an’ undisciplined. T’gadgy’s early dunsh ‘Wowzie Zowie’ sounds leek it cud easily hev been written by the band (as Michael Stipe said iv Creedence Clearwator Revival’s ‘Hev Yee Ivvor Seen The Rain?’, ‘this isn’t yen iv oors… but it meet as wey be.’) ‘Complicated Head’ also name-checks Jeffrey Lewis (the anti-folk artist ah saaw KateGoes supportin these many yeors ago) an’ Biff Rose, the American comedian an’ singer-songwritor. The hin iv both artist situates KateGoes as a particularly earnest band, which meet account fo’ why the last track on the album is separated from the rest by a full yen minute an’ twenty iv silence. Agyen, mare on this lator!
The othor twa ballads on Animals is ‘No-one Gan Sta the Rain’ an’ ‘Stubborn Wee Mule’. The formor sounds leek yen iv the mare lo-fi offerings from Mr. Bungle’s California as sung by Karen Carpentor. It’s a geet bonny, evon elegiac composition. It feels leek lookin at postcards iv rainy Birmingham on a sunny beach. It’s a canny wash iv soond that is somewhat atypical fo’ the group, but a geet pleasuryeble inclusion on the album. It’s also positioned reet towards the album’s tail-end leek aaal the best album tracks (lke R.E.M.’s ‘Country Feedback’!) shud be. Finally, in dangor iv bein as precious as Pitchfork, tuh me lugs ‘No-one Gan Sta the Rain’ also recalls Japanese experimental electro-pop duo Picky Picnic’s hauntin an’ bonny ‘Aischu Nar Na Melody (The Settin Sun in Africa)’. Picky Picnic is, leek KateGoes, a band that weor irrepressibly an’ simultaneously faintly troublin. If any members iv the band is readin this, then I’d thoroughly recommend that the’ give Picky Picnic a listen, if the’ haven’t already!
Animals‘ remainin ballad ‘Stubborn Wee Mule’ deserves tuh be a successful dunsh single. It hez a jerkin MIDI-tastic tune, accompaneed by backgroond squelchin, ringin an’ thrummin. It is a hurdy-gurdy sang abyeut bein a stubborn wee mule. Ah find the self-effacin lyrics deeply relateyeble tuh a bonny uncomfortyeble degree an’ ah suspect ah winnet be alone in that: ‘My brain lives in its ahn brain see qyeut pullin at me reins. Ah am blind although ah see. Draggin heavy loads throo a blinkered eternity. ‘Cause ahm a stubborn wee mule.’ Haddaway, man! Alongside ‘Walkin The Dog’ it is me favourite track on the album an’ justifies its buy alone. A masterpiece iv tiny yet epic proportions I says. Champion KateGoes!
Animals needs ‘The Silence’, which is simply a track iv silence, evon though includin a minute-odd lang track simply iv silence on an album that clocks in at just owor half-an-hoor seems cheeky at best. Whey aye, John Cage hez already famously performed an’ recorded an entirely silent composition, ‘4′33″’, the interest iv which lees in both its concept an’ also in the heightened appreciation iv audience sounds an’ neeises while listenin tuh the piece played in a concert haal. Listenin tuh ‘The Silence’ on headphones fo’ the forst time ah mostly expected tuh be suddenly surprised by a geet loud neeise an’ see sat throo the track in a state iv intense feor an’ apprehension. This likely says mare abyeut wor than KateGoes. Whey aye, KateGoes is neet the anny band tuh include a wholly silent sang on their record like. A wee glance at Wikipedia‘s comprehensive list iv ‘silent musical compositions’ reveals artists as vareed as Télépopmusik, Wilco, Orbital, John Denvor, Coheed an’ Cambria, Gully Portee an’ Coil as havin done the syem. Me favourite example iv the silent composition is perhaps closor tuh wot KateGoes is attemptin, which is on Jack off Jill’s wonderful Cleor Hearts Grey Floo-az, on which fifty-two silent six-second tracks separate the album’s penultimate sang from a covor iv The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’, makin the lattor stand-yeut aaal the mare (helpfully it also happens tuh be a brilliant covor!)
See, on Animals wuh hev the bonny an’ melancholic ‘No-one Gan Sta the Rain’ endin the album propor, then wuh git ‘The Silence’ an’ then, finally, wuh hev ‘Aal Wuh Wanna Dee is OH!’, which is ridiculous, but simultaneously awesum. It’s a sugary infuriatin semi-ironic pop celebration iv t’back o’Rackhams. The fact that on the band’s Myspace the sang is accompaneed by an image iv a caricatured Paris Hilton from Syeuth Wreck is bonny tellin. Imagine a far mare chaste version iv an offerin by gleefully trashy electropop outfit Millionares (mair in terms iv vibe an’ thematics that owt else… the lyrics tuh ‘Party Leek a Millionaire’, fo’ instance, is on a huurl othor plateau iv obscenity). It’s as stumor an’ repetitive as any track from Sparks’ In Outor Space an’ achieves a similar effect in evokin the absolute shallowness iv yyeuth culture, while neet actin as an outreet condemnation. Howivvor cynical lines leek ‘I’m see drugged up ah cannit move, ahm see made-up ah cannit see’ cum across, the sang is also genuinely fun an’ the ‘OHs’ is… kind… iv… fetchin? /shyem (oka see ‘Aal Wuh Wanna Dee is OH!’ is neet Björk’s ‘Cocoon’, but it isn’t a million miles awa from Gina G’s ‘Just a Wee Fair Bit’).
T’sang is a perfect theme tune tuh the mindless an’ derivative teen comedy, fo’ which is wes originally intended. Me understandin is that KateGoes won a competition tuh pen the openin credits tune iv Comin Iv Age, a competition also entered by mardy pop impresario Luke Leighfield. Howivvor, when ah saaw Mr. Leighfield live ah thowt he treated eez drummor fair shoddily an’ while thor’s mich tuh admire abyeut the man’s compositions, ah am doubtful he coined yeut owt as wonderfully demented an’ grubby as ‘Aal Wuh Wanna Do’.
It’s a surprisingly glib an’ ironic coda tuh an often thoughtful an’ quietly movin album, which ah suspect is why KateGoes chose tuh quarantine it wi’ a waal iv silence. But then agyen, KateGoes is a contrary band… delightful, boot vaguely irritating; charmin, but sometimes real workyticket like; brilliant an’ musically assured, but throw-awa an’ careless. This short iv irreverence unites KatesGoes wi’ perhaps their closest fore-bearers The Bonzo Doog Doo-Dah Band, anuthor group wi’ a particularly British sense iv whimsy. It’s these contradictions tha will ensure that ah will continue returnin tuh Animals Whe Want Tuh Be Othor Animals fo’ a lang time yet. Finally, fo’ the record (and in a short iv transparency), ah am a human bein whe wud geet mich leek tuh be a toucan.
P.S. While KateGoes currently exist as a three-piece iv Kate, Susie an’ Beth, Animals Whe Want Tuh Be Othor Animals also contains stellar contributions from formor bandmates an’ collaborators Grandmastor Gareth, Joe Thompson, Bord an’ Sam Minneor. Joe’s mandolin is particularly gratifyin an’ at the lineor neetes attest, Gareth’s drummin on ‘Stubborn Wee Mule’ is right champion. Beltas!