Wild Cat Strike – ‘Mustard Coloured Years’

By Andy Joice

Brighton quartet Wild Cat Strike defy genre. Despite attempts to pigeonhole them into a specific scene or sound, they strive to push themselves to develop unique, sonically exquisite soundscapes, and with the release of latest EP ‘Mustard Coloured Years’, they’ve continued that trend. Recorded in the spring of 2019 in neighbouring south-coast city Eastbourne, they’ve managed to create an eclectic mix of low-fi minimalism and intricate melodies that flood the ears. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work on paper, yet creates an interesting dynamic that makes it utterly captivating.

Opening with ‘Mustard’, the first line uttered by vocalist/guitarist Danny Byrom – “I can’t complain” – echoes the closing line of the final track from their debut album ‘Rhubarb Nostalgia’, creating a direct bridge between the two. Twinkly guitar melodies sit front and centre, bringing a sense of whimsy to the track, with the accompanying singalong section adding to that mythos. With assistant vocals from friends from Tall Ships, I Feel Fine, and labelmates Bonniesongs, its gang vocals somehow create a moment of nostalgia from happy campfire choirs before the vocals break back in and build to a crescendo of rowdy noise.

Lead single ‘Toothcutter (Part 1)’ is a slow burner, with layers of synth and a subtly dynamic bassline. While it may start with heavily distorted guitars, it deftly fades away to allow these layers to shine and let Byrom’s voice bounce over the top. Written about becoming fate and the idea that it’s better to accept your struggles than avoid them, it may feel nihilistic, but there’s a heaped dose of realism that somehow brings a sense of positivity to the equation. It’s this dichotomy that lives through every track on the EP. While lines like “the easiest thing to do is start learning the hard way” might seem throwaway, these unique analogies are littered through each song, adding to both the depth of poetry and the whimsical yet serious nature of the band themselves.

Final single ‘Swamp’ again builds from a delicate chord progression, with gentle piano notes scattered atop a coursing melody. There’s a deftness to the instrumentation that counters the heartfelt lyrics referring to feeling stuck and stagnant, only to inevitably give into the depths of a metaphorical swamp. Clever, alliterative wordplay is rife throughout, creating images of purity and strength. While there’s no real chorus, the structure of the verses creates a hook that sticks with you long after leaving, like swamp mud at the bottom of your shoes.

Closing with the acoustic ‘Beekeeper Song’, it’s probably the most engaging and thought-provoking track. With no reliance on backing music, Byrom delivers the lyrics at a near whisper, every syllable sounding more impactful than the one before. There’s a weight to his voice, as if it’s the most important message he’ll ever deliver. The last line, “Heaven’s always got a spare room”, leaves a lasting impression, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this tattooed on fans as a symbol of hope, despite its cynical outlook. It’s not depressing – it’s a clue that, despite anything, living without fear is key.

This EP is clearly an extension of ‘Rhubarb Nostalgia’ and that’s in no way a bad thing. It builds upon its themes, and acts as a five-part coda to put the previous album to bed. On its own, it stands up proudly, each track adding something new to the party that the previous doesn’t have. It’s an amalgamation of sonic playfulness and lyrical dexterity, tied nicely in a melodious, harmonious bow. This is one for those who like their music chilled but meaningful.

ANDY JOICE

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