Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cait Brennan: “Third” (2017) CD Review

Cait Brennan’s recent release, Third, is the third studio album she’s recorded, but only the second she’s released, following Debutante. In addition, the album’s title is a nod to Big Star’s Third, which apparently is Cait’s favorite album. In fact, Cait’s Third was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, where Big Star recorded their albums, and Cait was able to use Chris Bell’s Gibson and Alex Chilton’s Mellotron on this album. All of that is interesting, of course, but wouldn’t matter if the music weren’t so damn good. All of the songs on Third are originals, written or co-written by Cait Brennan. And nearly all of the instruments heard on the album were played by Cait Brennan and Fernando Perdomo (there are guest guitarists on two tracks). I didn’t know that the first time I listened to this disc, and so the second time was even more impressed. This is a wonderful album, mixing pop, rock, glam, and even soul, some of it with a 1970s flavor.

I was on board from this album’s opening line, “Yeah, I’m the asshole who stole your boyfriend.” That line might get a laugh, but “Bad At Apologies” is kind of a serious song, and it rocks. At moments, it actually reminds me a bit of Aimee Mann, just in the phrasing on lines like “So let’s go direct to the scene of the tragedy.” And I love these lines: “Kinda tried to hide it, but I never denied it/And if you think that you can resist, then you’ve never tried it.” “Bad At Apologies” is followed by “Stack Overflow,” a song that demands some volume. It’s another powerful (and seriously fun) rock tune with a steady beat and some great vocals. Think of some of Eurythmics’ best rockers, and you’ll have an idea of the sound and feel of this one. And check out these lines: “I went before the lord/I begged him for a chance just to sing my song/He said ‘you’ll sing it loud, but you won’t sing it long.’” This one got me dancing.

“He Knows Too Much” is a song about having to kill someone, but with a pleasant early rock sound, even hand claps, and something of a Sweet sound to the vocals during the chorus. “Well, he knows (he knows)/Too much (too much)/I think we’ll have to kill him.” There is a humorous spoken word part at the end, which first explains that Cait is not really going to kill anyone, then reverses that position slightly in the final line, “So give the girl a break, and treat her with some respect, or she just might lose her shit.” Ah, you’ve got to love a kick-ass, slightly off-kilter chick with a sense of humor. And then suddenly she delivers a sweet love song, “At The End Of The World.” Sure, it’s an apocalyptic love song, but it’s heartfelt. “At the end of the world/When all of it’s through/I’ll be with you.”

“A Hard Man To Love” is a fun tune, with a seventies feel, reminding me a bit of ELO. This one was written by Cait Brennan and Fernando Perdomo. And then there is something strangely beautiful about “Caitiebots Don’t Cry.” I think you’ll know what I’m talking about when you hear it. That’s followed by “Benedict Cumberbatch,” a song that just makes me feel good. It’s a response to an ex, saying the guy doesn’t even deserve the song, and so it’s being given to Benedict Cumberbatch. And why not? He seems like a good guy. And he’s played Hamlet. And yes, there is a certain 1970s aspect to this song. And to the following song as well, “Shake Away,” which was written by Cait Brennan, Van Duren and Fernando Perdomo. Van Duren also plays guitar on this one. This song deals playfully with a near-death experience in 2016, the year of one death after another. (Boy, 2016 just completely fucking sucked from beginning to end. Any year that takes Leonard Cohen and leaves us with Donald Trump is a year that should be knocked senseless and left in a ditch at the side of the road.) “I said, the year’s trying to kill me but I’ll be fine/’Cause I ain’t great enough to slaughter by the deadline.” That’s followed by another song that deals with the same subject, “The Angels Lie.” This one calls out by name a few of the great musicians we lost last year – “Everybody let me go/Like Haggard, Prince and David Bowie/Gotta get me to the show.” Both of these songs are a lot of fun, and this one includes a bridge, during which she sings “Insert the bridge here/I think the bridge goes here.” Cait delivers this song with the energy and passion of a Meatloaf song, just really going for it, giving it everything, the way Meat Loaf does. And at the end, she sings, “Insert the end here/I think the end goes here.”

“Collapse” is a mellower tune, and one that really grew on me. Something about this is quite moving. Robert Maché (from the Continental Drifters) plays lead guitar on this track. “Everything you want, I’ll say it now/Any price you want, I’ll pay it now/Everything I am, just take away/Tired of being this every day.” And check out these lines from “Perish The Thought”: “When I see you/I see the worst of myself/The part I left in some corner of hell/When I see you/I kind of want it back.” Yeah, Cait can certainly write some damn good lyrics.

CD Track List
  1. Bad At Apologies
  2. Stack Overflow
  3. He Knows Too Much
  4. At The End Of The World
  5. A Hard Man To Love
  6. Caitiebots Don’t Cry
  7. Benedict Cumberbatch
  8. Shake Away
  9. The Angels Lie
  10. Collapse
  11. LA/Amsterdam
  12. Perish The Thought
  13. Goodbye Missamerica 
Third was released on April 21, 2017 through Omnivore Recordings.

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