Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 13/11/2016
published: 7 /
John Clarkson at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh watches alternative rock act the Cathode Ray play a forceful show in support of the Monochrome Set to finish the promotion of their second album 'Infinite Variety'
At one level local band the Cathode Ray sound as angst-torn as ever at tonight’s gig at the Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms in support of the Monochrome Set. They have, however, an air also of jubilation. There is a sense of triumph about them, of a job well done.
“Evening all,” barks front man, guitarist and songwriter Jeremy Thoms to a busy crowd as the Cathode Ray stridently launch into their first song, ‘Backed Up’.
Tonight’s show is their last gig to promote ‘Infinite Variety’, their second album, which came out eighteen months before.
‘Infinite Variety’ has been a step-up at every level from its fine 2012 eponymous predecessor which was a 70’s-inspired album, marrying the sound of New York acts such as Lou Reed and Television with those of Mancurian outfits such as Joy Division, Magazine and the early Fall. ‘Infinite Variety' - as its spectacular cover art which has photos over forty species of rare flowers and plants on it suggests – has, however, a much broader canvas, incorporating, as well as punk and new wave, elements of psychedelia, glam rock, Euro disco, krautrock and 90’s alternative pop.
Touring has always been a problem for this group of late 40/early 50 somethings. Thoms, a late second-time father, still has a young child at home; lead guitarist Steve Fraser is a much in-demand session guitarist; bassist Neil Baldwin is holding down a demanding job and drummer David Mack moved to Teeside a few years ago. They have, however, managed fifteen gigs with ‘Infinite Variety’, which has seen them for the first time break out of the Edinburgh/Glasgow belt and take in cities and venues from Dundee to Leeds and Middlesborough to a Pennyblackmusic Bands Night in London.
Thoms’ label Stereogram Recordings, which is promoting tonight’s gig, has also since that first album taken off, signing established acts such as the Band of Holy Joy, James King & The Lonewolves and Roy Moller as well as new bands such as the Eastern Swell and the Unfortunates.
The Cathode Ray and Jeremy Thoms have come a long way with this album.
They have always dealt with what lies beneath the surface, the paranoia, self-doubts and distorted truths that bubble underneath seemingly placid facades. There is plenty of that in tonight’s set which is split fairly evenly between songs from ‘Infinite Variety’ – ‘Backed Up’, ‘Buck the Trend’, ‘Resist’, ‘The Eyes are the Window to the Soul’ and ‘Force of Nature’ – and the earlier LP – ‘Slipping Away’, ‘Lost and Found’ and ‘Around’.
Their forty-five minute set goes down well with the audience, many of whom have come out to see the Cathode Ray as much as they have the Monochrome Set, and some of whom seem to know every word.
Thomas and the usually more taciturn Fraser, both of whom are smartly-dressed for the occasion in shirt and ties, meanwhile joke with each other and the audience in between numbers. The always dapper Thoms complains at one point about his nylon shirt sticking to him, and someone shouts from the crowd, “Granny’s curtains” to a large roar of laughter from both the audience and the stage.
It all ends with a blistering version of the Cathode Ray’s first single, ‘What It’s All About?’, which Thoms reminds the audience came out on ten years ago that month before the band leave the stage.
As with ‘The Cathode Ray’, there will be an extensive period of hibernation between now and a third album, which they will work on as family, record company and work commitments and location problems will allow them. It may be as late as 2018 before that next album and we see them on a stage together again. Tonight’s show has been very much a statement of where they are now and where they have come from with no new material played. It remains to be seen they will be able to come up with a front cover as striking and imaginative such as that of ‘Infinite Variety’ again. Tracks are already been demoed for the third album, and much as ‘Infinite Variety’ was it will be undoubtedly very much worth the long wait.
Photographs by Jane Barnes