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Explorers of the Beat (Demos and Sessions 1981-1983) Released 4th February 2023 Reviewed by Kate 7th February 2023 Buy the album here:

The Blue Cats (at the time of recording) were:

Clint Bradley-Voice & Guitar Carlo Edwards- Lead Guitar Mitch Caws - Double Bass Stef Edwards - Drums Clive Osbourne - Saxophone.

Very rarely will you find a band as influential as the Blue Cats, who pioneered the UK Neo-rockabilly scene with the biggest slap bass sound it’s possible to produce. 2013’s On A Live Mission proved that, some forty-odd years after their formation, they’re still on top of their game, but the band have decided to share where it all started from in this very special retrospective release. Partially recorded in my home town of Catford, this album also draws from the band’s BBC sessions and gives you ten perfectly and jubilantly raw tracks. It’s a snapshot into the genre’s history that stands up today as a really exciting album, and whether you’re just dipping your toes into the ocean of the rockabilly scene or you’re the kind of Klub Foot kid who was in the early days of the scene, you need to hear this album.

Slap That Bass - The song which inspired the name of this page, this is a scene manifesto from the moment the slap bass comes in. Clint’s screams over Carlo’s occasionally furtive, occasionally explosive guitar makes this the perfect introduction to the album, and the draft quality of the demo makes it just a footstep away from a live performance captured on record.

Wild Night - Effortlessly the previous song drifts into this one, and Mitch’s bass reminds us exactly why the Blue Cats are such a big deal both now and then. The backing vocals give this version a dreamlike quality, like a wild night you’re remembering (and might prefer to forget), and the pounding tempo followed by those pauses and drops drives the point home that even when they were just Blue Kittens, these guys were very much in control of their sound.

You Gotta Be Loose - I’m fairly sure the popular usage of the word ‘loose’ had changed between the original version of this song from 1957 and the early eighties, and it’s great to hear the devious side of the band coming through in this sax-driven celebration of dancing and fun times of every kind. I’m a huge fan of the hollowness of the drumming cutting through the richness of the guitar and sax on this recording.

Captain Blood - The first ancestor of the nautical themes which would explode in 2012’s Billy Ruffians, this is the song the Stray Cats would perform if they were press-ganged. The previous three songs were party jams and it really shows the range and talent of the Blue Cats, even at this early stage in their career, when they can drop in a slow one like this and it’s on point. The borderline-acoustic guitar solo is everything, and the sweet/harsh contrast that will characterise Clint’s vocals later is here already.

We’re Gonna Teach You to Rock - One of the things I love about the Blue Cats is how British they are. Somehow it hovers over everything they write, and when the rock n roll scene is very American it provides a refreshing change. The 1956 original of this song is all Hollywood glamour and synchronised dance moves, and this song is a statement, not a request: rockin’ is not optional and it’s going to happen. It’s been put together in such a slick way that it updates the original tune and adds a sense of strength to proceedings.

Crazy Things - The way Clint sings ‘get up and go’ reminds me of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, and it’s the apparent loss of control which still keeping charge of the sound which makes this an amazing track. There’s so much bass pop in this song, which stops and starts and changes and evolves over it’s four minutes, and the ambiguous nature of the ‘crazy things’ makes this an ominous, mysterious beast of a track.

Southbound Blues - The fuzz and the echo on this recording make it even more bluesy, and now the sax is back we’ve got another party number with a rumbling bass and drum buildup like a rollercoaster going uphill. Sometimes simple is best, and a good rock n roll number in that quintessentially Blue Cats style is always a fabulous choice.

Long Blonde Hair - A powerful rhythm section like a speeding truck over short sharp vocals keeps this punchy but painfully short little number in check. It’s a very timeless song that doesn’t seem tied to any trend in the genre: if I told you this song was recorded three decades earlier or a decade later, you’d believe me. That’s one of the gorgeous things about the Blue Cats: they have always blazed their own trail and others follow.

Living Fast - ‘…and dying young’ is the second half of the song’s refrain, and there’s a strange irony that the young men playing this song are now still absolute bosses many years later and did not die young at all. It’s a very youthful, nihilistic, reverb-heavy tune that pulls out no stops on the rock n roll guitar. That sweet/harsh thing creeps in again and creates this fabulous clash between the lyrics and the tune.

The Poacher - Drums like a heartbeat and a soaring, twinkling guitar over those rich backing vocals. Even as far back as their inception the Blue Cats have had a weakness for folk and this is a brilliant example of the other direction they could have spiralled in had their blue sueded shoes not been firmly planted in rock n roll.

The Blue Cats may have set out to provide a treat for the fans in releasing their classic demos, but what they’ve done is instead provide a primer for the Neo-rockabilly genre. This release is everything that Neo is about without the polish and wax to make it shine, instead letting the glow come from their talent. It’s a brilliant little record and an essential for anyone with even a passing interest in the rockin’ genres. With only one UK show planned for this year (27th May at the Boomerang Club, North London where they will have signed copies for sale) before they head off to Germany, this album only deserves to remind everyone why the Blue Cats are so very important.

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