Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Captain Yange/Cats in the Alley @ The Band Stand, Hanley. 31st March.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Our first visit to The Band Stand, a relatively new addition to Hanley’s venues. Situated in a cellar bar, the venue itself isn’t overly large, but it has an authentically intimate club feel that many top-flight bands would now give their proverbial eyeteeth to play in. Talking of top-flight bands, Captain Yange, I’m pretty sure, are well on their way to joining such hallowed ranks. Nothing surprises me about Stoke’s astonishingly talented music scene any more, but musically Captain Yange are something else yet again. The band’s all-singing three members, Paul Murfin on drums with Scott Ralph and Si Waite sharing guitar and bass duties pretty much equally, are a little older than the average band on the scene at the moment, and these extra years of experience are very evident in the impressive maturity of this band’s writing and talented execution of their compositions. The influences are many, from the Beatles to U2, although none are over-apparent. Their gutsy opening number, ‘Fuse’, has the most gloriously Zeppelinesque chunky riff whilst ‘Chemical’, with its Bach-like interludes has a quasi-classical arrangement that somehow managed to remind me of Dave Brubeck’s quirkier exploits; so peripheral are some of the influences here. ‘Calmoceans’, with its beautifully melancholic chord structures, syncopated rhythms and haunting melody and harmonies, is quite unlike anything else I’ve heard before. All I can say is that it sounds like something Led Zeppelin would have turned out if they had been at their peak in this day and age. Yes, as good as that. Other numbers included in the set were ‘Purple Laxatives’ (I think), with a nice strummed bassline and ‘Repeat’, which they played with relish as a well-deserved encore. Fascinating material, great musicianship and a promising future, I reckon. Having just won the local Walkabout Battle-of-the-Bands heats; they will be going to Manchester for the next round later this month. Myself and Simon will accompany them. Looks like it’ll be a lot of fun.

Keyboards-fired trio Cats in the Alley play a form of lively good-time jazzy-funk-soul-disco. Foregoing a real drummer for an electronic one leaves their sound almost unavoidably rooted in the 70s/80s dance scenes, although that isn’t a bad thing; if that’s the sound you’re looking for. It once was very, very popular. With the influences of decades coming together as they are at present, there is no reason it will not be as popular again. Sounding like a whole host of people, from the Jacksons to Ultravox, Cats in the Alley offer a relentlessly entertaining set, although at one point they feared they would have to carry on without one of the keyboards on the large bank in front of Tom ‘The Tomcat’ Shave, due to some mishap or other, but they were soon back in business. Ol ‘The AristoCat’ Masters plays some interestingly nimble bass lines, while Dan ‘The WildCat’ Tierney strums up a storm behind his clean, but passionate vocals. Everything they do is very danceable, as one would expect, and their last number, an absolutely huge production, was brought to a close with some fantastic Earth, Wind and Fire-like electronic scat singing by Tom. Although the enthusiastic audience demanded an encore, they were denied one due to the simple fact that the band didn’t know any more. I suggest they write a new song pretty sharpish. Great stuff.

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