Rob Parry

Home by Cattle and Cane – Album Review

In our interview with Cattle and Cane keyboardist and vocalist, Helen, (it feels over-familiar using first names like this, but considering that like four of the band are related I don’t really see any way around it), it was mentioned that the five-year wait to finish Home, the band’s debut album, gave them time to practice and develop their sound. The album bears this out – for the most part, they hold the album together with a strong, consistent sound, and are comfortable enough with the template they’ve set to play around with the edges of some of the songs. Touches like the spaghetti-western atmosphere of Birdsong and the keening guitar cutting through the end of Red add a lot of welcome texture to the album, and letting all of those variations sink in made going through this release on repeat much more pleasant.

Consistency might be Home‘s most obvious strong point, but the rest of the band’s strengths might be clearest on the album’s least typical track, The Poacher. The Poacher has a bizarre choice of vocal, with Joe doing this extended, slowly unravelling gamekeeping metaphor about being a jealous lover in a kind of Noel Gallagher slur. It’s nothing like anything else on the album, and I’m really not sure what it’s doing there. It’s not a cover as far as I can tell – this is the only other The Poacher I could find – and if the band thought that they needed to change their style to get on the radio I don’t see why they’d hide it three-quarters deep into the album. It’s just five minutes of George Thorogood-style swagger parachuted into the middle of forty-five minutes of reflective folk-pop. A lurch like that could absolutely torpedo the album, but in practice it’s a success because when Joe swerves, the rest of the band are ready to go with him, going at the song from a new direction and keeping the band’s identity intact as they swing towards another genre.

Home shows that five years have left Cattle and Cane versatile and confident, but there are still areas where the band’s youth shows through. Too many of the songs reach for some sort of climax, and whilst they hit what they’re aiming for more often than not – Fran’s solo at the end of The Poacher and the slow build of live closer Dancing are especially satisfying – it makes for quite a lopsided album, without enough breathing room between the peaks, and a few lopsided songs, which feel like they could have taken a little while longer to unfold. Many of the album’s stronger tracks are the longer ones, such as halfway point We Were Children, where the band give themselves enough space for the mood of the track to sink in. I’m hoping that Home’s deserved success gives Cattle and Cane the confidence to keep making left turns like The Poacher, and to trust that these quieter moments can carry a song further than they’re allowing.

Home is available for purchase in shops, and can be downloaded from Itunes or the band’s website.

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