The Cat Empire – Steal The Light (Two Shoes) CD REVIEW

July 9, 2013

imagesJUST WHAT IS it about Australian bands? How many good ones are there? Two? Five? Ten? The ratio of good to bad is utterly miserable, considering there are 23 million people perching on the edge of that enormous desert.
The Cat Empire, despite the group’s exquisite name, and its equally exquisite cover artwork by Graeme Bass, continues this tradition of naffness. [‘Naff’ meaning uncool, unfashionable, and worthless, for all those who grew up after the 1980s. I guess naff isn’t a very cool, fashionable or worthy way to diss these days, but hey].
Steal The Light is the sixth album by this fusion unit, who started out in 1999 as a jazz-inflected ska band – or was it the other way round? – and have now incorporated Latin rhythms, electronic elements, ‘world’ music samples, turntable scratching and gospel into their armoury of clichés.
Essentially, The Cat Empire is most easily categorised as the Aussie equivalent of The Black Seeds, a Wellington fusion band that continues to be as popular as they are awful; a band without a centre, except for a singer/songwriter who comes up with the most embarrassing cod-philosophies. Steal The Light features no less than two vocalists who inflict their drab lyrics on their long suffering cat-empire_normalplaymates, many of which are the usual blandishments about dancing being the only real escape from life’s ordeals, and a repetitive anti-technology stance. Okay, fair enough taking potshots at people for burying their heads in their smart phones when they could be experiencing life, but do it with wit or humour or find something more gripping to sing about.
There’s even an African-influenced song where the lyric goes: “My heart is beating like a drum”. How daringly original.
Like The Black Seeds, The Cat Empire are musical tourists without an original idea in their heads who have let fundamentally dull songwriters rule the roost. They’d be better down the local playing covers and really getting people off their asses. GARY STEEL
Music = 2.5/5
Sound = 3/5

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here


  1. Stop wasting your time on this hoehum ozzy rubbish Gary. Go and listen to Tame Imapla’s Lonerism on repeat for a week. You can thank me later.

  2. Hi Luke, thanks for the advice. I don’t really need a week with Lonerism, but you’re right, it’s a fine record (even if it is a bit lo-fi for a stereo nerd like myself).

  3. The most biased review I’ve ever read. Seemingly, Aussie bands just aren’t worth his time.
    Yet another critic trying to be controversial so he might get somewhere in life.

  4. wow.

    ….I feel so bad for the author. His life must be shit.
    I don’t understand why a person would want to focus on things they don’t like. If you don’t like something, why waste your time dwelling on all the things you don’t like about it? That’s not healthy.

    Granted, I don’t know, I’m not in a position to judge them, I’m just some random person on the internet, I don’t know the author’s life. Maybe they’re super happy, that’s just not the impression I get from this.

  5. Message to ‘a young white woman’: go get an education in the craft of “the critique” (hint: it’s not all about being day-glo happy-positive about everything, because sometimes you’ve gotta call shit ‘shit’), then come back and we’ll discuss the finer points. Your friend ‘Google’ will point you in the right direction.

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