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Katydids - Profile

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 9 / 7 / 2014

Katydids - Profile


Malcom Carter reflects on the career of the Katydids, the band of London-based singer-songwriter Susie Hug and ex-Pretenders guitarist Adam Seymour, who after an absence of over twenty years have recently released online a new EP

Every time the radio has been turned on over the last month or so a track from Chrissie Hynde’s new album ‘Stockholm’ gets played. Judging by the few songs so far aired, the album shouldn’t have been panned as it has in some quarters. Hynde hasn’t drifted too far from the sound she made under the Pretenders banner, and why should she? There’s always a place for intelligent melodic pop, especially when sung by such an expressive vocalist. The Katydids released two albums as the eighties turned into the nineties, two albums of perfectly crafted intelligent pop music that didn’t set the world on fire even though the first set included the single ‘Lights Out (Read My Lips)’ which should have been sitting proudly at the top of the charts at the time. ‘Lights Out’ was/is a glorious rush of perfect pop, one of those songs that makes you feel good to be alive, one of those songs that confirms that your obsession with this thing called music is justified. And it wasn’t just that song; the Katydids had a whole album of the things. Their self-titled debut, produced by Nick Lowe, also featured ‘Girl in a Jigsaw Puzzle’, ‘What Will the Angels Say?’ and ‘Growing Old’ songs that still shine some twenty –five years after they were recorded. Without wishing to take any credit away from the other members of this five-piece band, the main reason that not only these songs but every single track that featured on the two Katydids albums still sound so fresh and vibrant is that in vocalist Susie Hug and guitarist Adam Seymour the Katydids had a pair of musicians who understood what classic, timeless pop music was all about. Susie Hug was born to front a band. With the looks, the charisma and a voice that was Chrissie Hynde without the attitude, it was impossible not to be smitten; Hug succeeded in drawing from all of the major sixties female vocalists to fashion an irresistible, contemporary vocal style. Hug was an expressive vocalist; for all the bravado displayed in a song like ‘Lights Out’ there was still this vulnerability seeping through in places that set Hug apart from the rest. Couple this with Adam Seymour’s impressive guitar skills, and it’s one of music’s biggest mysteries as to why the Katydids never really received the acclaim they deserved at the time. The band split after those two albums, Seymour went to play with the Pretenders, which was no big surprise and a natural choice for both that band and Seymour, while Susie Hug forged a solo career, the highlight of which might well be her JD Foster-produced ‘Tucson Moonshine’ album with the Calexico guys lending a hand. Although Hug and Seymour were still partners, it seemed that we’d heard the last of the Katydids. Then, without any fanfare or warning, came news that five new Hug/Seymour songs were available (follow this link https://soundcloud.com/katydids) under the collective title of ‘Meet the Katydids'. While both Susie Hug’s solo career and Adam Seymour’s work with the Pretenders never failed to impress resurrecting the Katydids name was something of a gamble. The Katydids was a special band to many music lovers; maybe the band's reputation should have been allowed to rest with those two brilliant albums. There’s a feeling that history is going to repeat itself. While Chrissie Hynde’s new work is being played all over the world (and let’s be honest it’s the Pretenders in all but name), the not too dissimilar music that Hug and Seymour have produced on ‘Meet the Katydids’ deserves the same attention but is unlikely to receive it. But that’s not because this new music from the Katydids doesn’t deserve to be heard because here is some of the most catchy, well-played and produced pop music you’ll ever likely to hear, and we should be thankful that Hug and Seymour have given the Katydids another chance. Sketchy details of the recordings don’t reveal who is playing on these five songs apart from Hug and Seymour, but it doesn’t really matter. All that needs to be said is that the duo have picked up from where they left off with ‘What’s the Matter Here?’, the last song on ‘Shangri-La’, the final Katydids album. Thankfully the combination of Hug and Seymour’s classic pop vision and an inspired choice of producers ensured that the Katydids were never the product of a certain period in music; their sound is timeless and with these five new songs it’s as though Hug and Seymour have never been away. Initially it was a disappointment that only five songs were available but it does make sense. Over the course of the songs the duo cover all that was special about the Katydids. It can’t be said that the sound has been updated as it was never of a time anyway. It really is a continuation of what they had already achieved. ‘This One to One’ is proof enough that the Katydids are back and back with a vengeance. A melodic almost psych-laced beauty of a tune which not only showcases just why Seymour was chosen for the Pretenders (Seymour, like a few other guitarists has never been given due credit for his distinctive guitar style) but the song immediately raises a smile as Hug’s vocals are exactly as they were on the first Katydids album. Bright yet expressive, there are moments when it sounds like a whole choir of Susie Hugs are singing right in front of you, just for you. Like ‘Lights Out’ it’s a song that can’t fail to make the darkest of days feel that much brighter. Given that it appears Hug and Seymour actually produced these songs, the pair should be immensely proud of the end results. Without a name producer they have still captured that glorious Katydids sound. ‘Misery Loves Company’ shows a more sensitive side to the Katydids while never betraying their unique sound. Hug’s vocals are again outstanding, and by the end of the song the listener is hoping that Hug and Seymour keep this version of the Katydids around for a long time. If there’s a place still for Hynde’s music on the airwaves, why the hell ‘Misery Loves Company’ isn’t blasting out of summer radios everywhere is a mystery. It’s a perfect pop song. Hug’s vocals will turn the hardest man into a quivering wreck, and Seymour’s talent for sneaking little sounds into the songs which actually go a long way to defining the Katydids sound are never more apparent than on this track. It’s stunning. And we’ve not even mentioned Seymour’s guitar solo. The driving ‘Road to Love and Luck’ is another catchy slice of intelligent pop perfection, again once heard never forgotten. But, while ‘Misery Loves Company’ is a perfect song, it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite from these five songs. By releasing just five songs Hug and Seymour leave the listener simply begging for more of the same, just as all great artists should. While Hug’s solo albums led her in other directions the songs on ‘Meet the Katydids’ are pure Katydids; there’s little doubt as to why Hug and Seymour chose to issue these songs under their former band name. Thankfully they have kept to the original sound, maybe there’s a little more energy displayed here than on ‘Shangri-La’. Tt’s almost like Hug and Seymour have been revitalised and realised that the time is right for the Katydids to grab the acclaim they so rightly deserved all those years ago. It would be a crime to let such a great band slip away again.

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Katydids - Profile

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