After decades spent hustling in the melodic rock trenches, it might be unkind to refer to Cats In Space mainman Greg Hart as a journeyman musician, but his CV does rather bear this out. It’s 30 years since he co-wrote Lay Down Your Arms and A Far Cry on Asia’s Aqua album, and the intervening years have been dotted with occasional albeit insubstantial flurries of activity. So when he launched Cats In Space in 2015 it felt like a Hail Mary. A final throw of the dice in AOR’s last-chance saloon.
In the seven years since, Hart has worked with all the steely determination of a man who's finally figured out where he’s headed and how he’s going to get there, and desperately wants to make up for lost time.
Cats In Space have released six studio albums (including a Christmas collection), a live album and a best-of collection. Which isn’t bad for a band who’ve never troubled the Top 75. They’re also on their third singer. It’s the CV of a band staring down the retirement end of a 30-year career, and yet it feels, somehow, as if Cats In Space are really just getting started.
Album number six, Kickstart The Sun finds them ready to “turn the lights on” after “the last two unprecedented years of darkness”. These are clearly laudable aims, and my, what brightness they bring. Slicker than a freshly oiled salamander, it’s an album that often sounds like a jukebox musical in search of a theatre, but it’s all presented with such clear affection for the music of yore that it feels churlish to suggest the band might be better off writing for the stage.
There are hints of Queen, Toto, Foreigner and ELO – the end of Last Dance Saloon has more than a whiff of latter’s Turn To Stone about it – and it’s all performed with a nod and a wink and an enthusiasm that borders on glee. It’s also something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production, from the fanfare horns that parp regally in King Of Stars to the climax of the title track, which sounds as if every singer in the galaxy has crowded into the studio.
It’s a master class in melodic songwriting, with harmonies ladled on top of harmonies and the simplest of piano flourishes powering Poke The Witch and Smoke And Mirrors to jubilant heights. This is an album that glistens.