I can't stop playing this Cats On Fire thing. It's not the greatest album of the year, probably - that'll be a toss up 'tween far hipper, more self-promoting outfits from nascent scenes across the planet. Cats On Fire are actually getting dissed on the internet for their lack of self-promotion, and the first thing people seem surprised by is that this be Finnish and doesn't sound like Darkthrone. If this record slips on by 2009 it'd fit, accidentally, with the sound and the songs - for these are special and precious and perhaps not for these times. For starters, you can hear them (a lot of what I'm about to say sounds like the kind of thing your mum and dad said about pop when you were a kid for which I can't apologise). No fog, only the fireworks that can happen between clean, pure unpedal-affected guitars and drums. Strong rhythms. Killer tunes. No new production tricks, a 50s radiance and shimmer with a 70s warmth and an 80s pose - down to what's important, and all is important. Needed at this groggy stage for rock - some purity of purpose linked with a purity of sound, some fucking balls, some proper dignified campness shot through ennui and standing up for a vintage cynicism, an unrequited endless love, a heroic warmth that's the coolest response to this cold dry age. Right now who cares whether guitar music's being 'inventive' or 'innovative' enough? Cram all that doodaddery, guitar music needs to rediscover the art of songwriting again, wipe the slate clean, earn its right to piss about again ‘cos we're drowning in the lukewarm yellow stuff down here. And only what's noble and dignified is gonna save us, something that sinks in rather than sinks us in that fathomless portabog that noughties indierock has become. At times like these the clear and good-hearted stops being a tradition to kick against with confusion and aggression, starts becoming the real alternative to all the faux-extremity and frowning. So on one level the perfectly-monikered Temperance Movement IS just 'some good songs'. And hallelujah, it will more than do. It's an album I love because it's so likable, possibly that likability wouldn't survive the perils of modern fame - but I hope Cats On Fire make it because they've made this and they deserve it. Tempted to toss it at first. The guys' voice was so Morrissey I felt furtive. But the band made it impossible to leave. Opener 'Tears In My Cup' throws down trump cards and silver with such controlled joy, the sound rich with a swing and punch that aren't pushy or perfect, just locked-on, confident, beautiful. In a flabby age where even the boiled down seems too loud Cats On Fire make the revolutionary leap of sounding just right, and hit all the right balances. It's a sound that's close but not forced down your throat. In the room but not petulantly raw. A sound informed by all sorts but somehow unique to the characters in this room and thus able to fly where the words take it. The sheer chest rush of 'Tears' masks its conciseness, how the gorgeous melodic ease (or the illusion of ease which is the neatest trick of all) from Ville Hoppenen's Fender gets the tune cleaved to the heart within a minute's exposure. Most miraculously, for the next 30 minutes and nine songs there was no fall-off, only new shapes of the same sweetness and fire, vocals that mattered, harmonies that mattered just as much. Even weirder, by the time I emerged dancing in the daze of a crush with guitar music again I was most in love with the man up front, the star who should be, dishy dreamboat Matthias Bjorkas. He's gorgeous, which helps. Cats On Fire all look amazing as it happens. Very pretty, very fuckable. As pure eye-candy and heart-quickener Bjorkas twangs the same straps as the young Edwyn Collins, but if you can't pick your heart out of the lines he sings and the way he sings them you have my full permission to continue running the planet."Expel the Marxist ghost the cynical consumerist remains" he nails himself a minute in, thence come tales of misplaced arson ('Garden Lights') , the skewered precocity of "Letters From A Voyage To Sweden" (on deck amidst the meatheads and stag parties the teenage Bjorkas takes a fringe-hidden 'great pleasure in being right'), the wondrous 'Play With Fire'-feel of 'Never Sell The House', the Love-like 'A Steady Pace' ("you're not into art / The moment someone wants you to be / And I could leave you here / Tie my shoes and prance away") and the pre-Army Elvis stylings of 'Lay Down Your Arms' & 'Horoscope' ("We should have gone a long time ago / Now Sweden has drifted too far away / You come from a family who can afford to be eccentric / Go back and cry to them"). Throughout 'Temperance' the lyrics are male without being lairy, wonderfully & winningly fogyish as only the young can be and, okay I'm naming soundalikes, but Cats On Fire are a band smart enough to know nothing's original but the people putting it together. Bjorkas has a voice that you want to hear again and again because it can be more than one thing at a time: arch and witty without causing resentment, Lothario and feather lite, heartfelt & sentimental whilst still confident and convincing, because his voice has that thing, that real in-the-room/unreal beamed-in-from-Venus thing that makes your insides flip, that thing everyone in Cats On Fire plays to. And it's been a long fucking time man - you lot had the Smiths. I could never get over my prejudices with them. Vis-a-vis boy-guitar-pop, I've found something to listen to once 'Between The Buttons' has run out. Yeah, a long time. No filler because each of the ten songs here become killer at different times in your relationship with this record as it unfolds over the coming months. You want to spend time with it. You don't feel you ought to. And that's miraculous. Miraculous. That a record so thoroughly traditional in sound never sounds like it's copped-off or desperate or over-stretching itself. For something just to be beautiful inside and out. That you're hearing a band neither hiding in distortion's familiar cushions or stroppily minimalising what needs oomph . That you're hearing a band uninterested in guiltily making moves on electronica's perfection and ironing out all nuance, a band careless about the testosterone and perma-tan and ruffled machismo and mithering sanctimony modern rock production offers with the tug of a knob. A guitar band only interested in making the best pop music they can. A band simply & naturally existing in their own sound in their own room at their own imperfect pace armed with songs worthy of such a four-man marvel. Let's avoid (as some unfortunates already haven't) hysterically tagging Cats On Fire as 'the rebirth of indie' like what's going on here is defibrillation. The corpse is gone - put the tag on the toe & close the draw. NO, what's going on here is truly beautifully great pop, pure and simple and jeez people, keep your voices down. Nobody let the bastards tromp in and spoil this, don't let it be corrupted by anything so vile as being on today's pulse Cats On Fire are smaller & way more important than that, too cherishable to give up to modern-pop's spectacular irritations and infections. Amidst the blather and blare of all those bills and gongs elsewhere, Our Temperance Movement, a guitar record free of cacophony, feels like the moment an entire genre can get over its inferiority & superiority complexes, and start genuinely competing with the best of pop again, start swimming in the same place as Britney & GA & Outkast & the important playaz who really own your days this decade. On the quiet like. Of course I secretly hope it blows up like the godfather, to whit a quote for the ads: "Best Scandinavian pop album since Gran Turismo or Arrival" but let's make this youknowhat, and everyone else from Bowman to Wylie to Fearne and Vern and Conor and all those Marks and Alexes can just step the fuck OFF of something for a change. Not for you fuckers. For us starlets. So good it hurts your heart. --The Quietus
There haven't been many more bands that have quite captured the indiepop zeitgeist as much as Cats on Fire over the last couple of years. Scandinvian? Check. Ridiculous good looks? Oh, yes. A million packed out London gigs over the space of two weeks? Of course. And so why haven't they grabbed my imagination so much? I'm not so sure... It maybe comes down to the fact that I've never really tried listening to their songs enough, because one and half listens into Our Temperance Movement and I'm beginning to see what all the fuss is all about. Sure, a lot of what Cats on Fire is style and is stylised, but you can say that about a lot of indiepop at the moment. I won't mention names, of course, because I'm a good boy, but if you're going to do something obvious, make sure you do it well. And that's what Cats on Fire do. And so when they sound like Felt on Lay Down Your Arms, at least they do it really well, rather than just putting on the voice, or the guitar part or the production. If there's one thing missing, its humour. Apart from the fact that sometimes Matthias Bjorkas tries so hard to sound like Morrissey that he ends of sounding like Euros Childs. But that'll be the accent, I suppose. He probably thinks I sound like... ooh, I dunno... Duncan Norvelle. Still, that is a minor gripe. Because there's songs here like Never Sell the House, which is so beautiful that you can do without the knowing nods and just pretend to be lonely and misunderstood again. And if you really, really are lonely and misunderstood then you're in for a treat. Or, if you really fancy a piece of Marr-ish nostalgia, dance around your handbag to Steady Pace. I know I will later on. Or, if you're feeling really saucy, do that bendy-knee dance to the Housemartins-esque Tears in Your Cup, which really does it for me. And so I think, eventually, I've fallen for Cats on Fire. I'm sure we'll make a lovely couple.
--A Layer of Chips
At Indietracks this summer it really seemed as if the world and his wife had suddenly become Cats On Fire fans. I'm certain there were more than a hundred people dancing fervently up front, something that is highly unusual with an unpretentious, slightly camp group like Cats On Fire. If possible, they have become even tighter and more professional than last year, and new songs like "Tears On Your Cup" lets them rock out in their own anti-rock way. The summer has already given me two opportunities to see them and tonight they are playing in Malmö for the first time since the We & You festival in 2004. That was the first time I ever saw or heard them, which makes it an even more pressing cause for celebration. Also, it's high time that I wrote more extensively about their new and second album Our Temperance Movement which has grown on me to become my favourite release of theirs since it came out on Matinée Recordings earlier this year. The thing that defines the new record for me is both the wider variation in instrumentation and the improved coherency compared to The Province Complains. When I saw them at Indietracks Ville was also playing a Telecaster with intermittent bursts of chorus, which gave them a fresh sound that I think suited them well. I later found out the guitar was on loan from Basil Butcher Boy! At Cosy Den they reverted into their familiar Swedish mode and played mainly old material, partly due to the 5-year anniversary of course, since they were one of the bands that played Cosy Den in 2004, when it still took place in arranger Mattias' flat in Gothenburg. There's something about the record that keeps drawing my thoughts towards The Go-Betweens. Of course Mattias has always had a Forsterian air about him, but maybe it's because they've dared to take a softer approach to many of the songs this time, with the guitars mixed further back and plenty of picked acoustics, baring the songwriting to the bone. They used to be best at the faster, electric numbers but here it is the midtempo songs like "The Steady Pace" that stand out. The scornful "Letters From a Voyage to Sweden", about trips on the seedy ferry connecting Stockholm and Åbo or Helsinki, is as succinct as "Draining the Pool For You" and where else today will you hear someone sing that "too much adultery just poisons your mind"? They even risk slowing the album down to a halt with "Never Sell the House" that seems to be addressed to Mattias' mother, but the very quiet organ in the background keeps everything afloat. There are plenty of references to ships, water and other more intoxicating liquids. And of course the cover is of a ship in a bottle - a symbol for the paradoxical, but also the traditional. A riddle that leaves us guessing at what their temperance movement really is. Perhaps 'our' means belonging to all of us. Several of the songs are about being a better person, or wishing others to be. The lyrics come through much more clearly on this album as well, and the audience at Indietracks was not only dancing but singing along. If there are any standout tracks, it must be "Tears In Your Cup", built on a mock rock'n'roll guitar line and telling the story of someone listening to The Yardbirds while enjoying a glass of wine. It contains my favourite line "so if I want to hear you talk I see you when you're under your favourite spell". Also "The Borders of This Land" with its Deebank-style guitar lines that accompany the vocal throughout, is a firm favourite. Our Temperance Movement is not a happy album, it doesn't take any shortcuts to your heart, but it's daring and most if the time its aim is true. Without boasting, Cats On Fire can say that they have recorded one of the best albums of the decade. --Heaven Is Above Your Head
This record was surprisingly difficult to review - not because I have mixed feelings about it, but rather because it's such a perfect record, that surely every pop fan in the world knows about it, right? It's like writing about air, telling people that they should really try breathing it sometime. This Finnish band's first record was really quite good, but their second one handily trumps it, with pretty much every song being among the best the band has written. In case you hadn't already heard, Cats On Fire play jangly guitar pop that's less in the vein of the Smiths and Orange Juice than it is a rival to those bands, only about 25 years too late. Not since Brideshead has there been a modern janglepop band this exciting. Not all of this is strictly jangly, mind you; the band is also quite good at penning gentler tunes, such as "Our Days In The Sun" and the haunting "Never Sell The House". But, naturally, it's the more upbeat tunes (like "Lay Down Your Arms", "Horoscope", "Tears In Your Cup" and "Letters From A Voyage To Sweden") that keeps me listening to this record all the time. Another win for Matinée Recordings! --IndiePages
The Finnish band Cats on Fire is unmistakably indie-pop, in the late ’80s UK sense: witty, sensitive songs delivered in a graceful, crisp way. Their second album Our Temperance Movement has its share of carefully put-together songs with alluring if not completely unfamiliar-sounding melodies. But new doesn’t have to be new, if that makes sense; or, familiar-sounding music is still new if you haven’t heard it before. More importantly, these songs are sweet, smart and/or sad on their own two feet. They have a generally melancholy mood, but with a wink, and music that never feels stagnant. “Never Sell the House” has a nicely delicate, slow-motion vibe that sits nicely with the sly humor, the portrait of domestic life, and the worry inherent in the plea to keep it the same. The rollicking “Tears in Your Cup” is similarly observant of someone the narrator wishes we behave differently, even if in this case he’s also possibly enjoying the wildness of what he’s seeing – someone drinking along with his favorite rock music – or at the very least capturing some of the spirit in the music. I like the cleverness of that song’s observation, “I always thought that there were tears in your cup / but years went by and I never saw you cry”. And that’s the way it goes with Cats on Fire. Every song has at least one nice turn of phrase, or a line that neatly encapsulates the whole story or feeling of the song. Match that to catchy melodies played well on nice-sounding guitars, and you’ve got something special. --The Big Takeover
Occasionally, you come across a group that is reminiscent of everything you truly love. Clever lyrics, jangly guitars, smooth vocals; all joining in unison in order to craft that perfect pop song. Cats on Fire have constructed 10 such songs with their second album Our Temperance Movement. Consider us lucky that Matinée Recordings was able to put out this album by the Finnish quartet. Immediately upon pressing play, you will more than likely realize that the band shares a certain affinity for bands such as Felt or the Smiths, sharing those classic vocal similarities, but not in such a fashion where you feel as if they’re merely playing the role of imitators. Singer Mattias Bjorkas can hold the sway in his voice just like Lawrence or Morrissey. But, you’ll find that in listening to his voice, it stands alone an a different entirely. Now, the band probably has a lot of influential waters that they could soak up with a sponge, all of which are visible in their songs, but a different comparison comes to mind when listening to the album. Our Temperance Movement recalls early Belle and Sebastian records, or just your favorite pop album, where every single song is so good that it would be hard to decipher which song on the album was meant as the single. You won’t be able to find a throwaway track here, which is an oddity in this year’s music output. “Lay Down Your Arms” has that familiar jangly guitar you’ll recall from all those classic recordings, creating a mood of stomping about your local pub dancefloor. As the vocals sway back across the song, you can’t help but feel moved by the meldious tune. “Letters from a Voyage to Sweden” follows shortly after, with tales of watching a cruiseliner filled with adulterers and sodomites. Even with such a taboo topic, the song rolls along; it’s the perfect song for quiet headphone moments lying in your bed in thought. With songs like “Tears in Your Cup,” Garden Light” and “Fabric” neatly tucked into the latter half of the album, you’ll find that your listening experience is never lacking in above average tunes. Especially when you encounter the bookend to the album “Fabric” with its backing female vocals and bouncy strum. As the album wraps up completely you’ll be rushing to record your favorite tracks for that next great mixtape you are preparing for your friends. You only want the best tracks, and every song on this album will suffice to prove to your friends just how great your tastes are; so go on and introduce them to Cats on Fire. --Austin Town Hall
This fine Finnish lot never ceases to amaze, especially with the year’s offering of Our Temperance Movement. With a mixture of bizarre romanticism and odd cynicism, this album whooshes through emotions, lead by Mattias’ flowing vocals and remarkable lyrics (thank goodness for those sleeve inserts!). Perfect soundtrack for occasions ranging from a springtime drive in the country to a winter’s hibernation session in your room to watching your mum dance around silly in the summertime (the latter being a FACT). And let’s not fail to mention the fantastic performance by those Cats at this year’s Indietracks, including the spectacular cover of White Town’s ‘Your Woman’. Thank heavens for that. --Baby Honey
Ever heard of the indie pop bands from the 80s Postcard record label? Finnish band Cats on Fire (who are fond of wearing neckerchiefs on stage) clearly have, because their new album 'Our Temperance Movement’ (the follow up to 2007's debut offering), they refine a sound that echoes the works of 80s jangle poppers Orange Juice, Aztec Camera like fellow Scandinavians Northern Portrait. Occasionally the work of The Smiths threatens to overshadow this album, the glistening Rickenbaker riffs, choppy rhythms and frontman Mattias Björkas's sensitive Morrissey crooning mixed with Edwyn Collins style phrasing come dangerously close to homage. For example, 'Tears in your Cup' nestles on a pretty choppy riff that could be the distant cousin of the Smiths’ classic 'Still Ill.' This impression is not helped when 'Lay Down your Arms' collapses into a ‘Vicar in a Tutu’ pastiche from the intro's chopping rockabilly riff, and tumbling yodelling melody. 'Fabric' delicately skips through green grass staring at its navel with a slightly fey and ineffective rather too twee, almost sickly, set of lyrics (‘I'm here with my four-leaf clover?’), while its outro throws distant echoes of 'The Boy with the Thorn in his side. Thankfully, 'Garden Lights' isn't a Golden lights tribute, but it can't escape the shadow of Moz through its rattling acoustic intro which sounds initially like Morrissey's acoustic reworking of The Jam's ‘That's Entertainment’. Its twisting melodies hide positively bitter feelings of revenge: sinister words that nestle amongst the generally upbeat indie pop facade (replete with oboe solo); one has visions of someone standing at the bottom of the garden with a petrol can, matches in hand. ('Alone with this evil dream/ with oil and matches/flicker when I think of you/I often do’.) Luckily this album is often rescued by cleverly crafted personal observations of lead singer Björkas, but also it has joyfulness in its sheer hummability and its jangling tunes performed by core members Hopponen (electric guitar), Kenneth Höglund (bass guitar) and Henry Ojala (drums). The effortlessly winding shiny seaside pop melodies of 'Letters from a Voyage to Sweden' aches with the kind of witty prosaic observations of human life that are scattered throughout the disc ('when will they learn? Too much adultery just poisons your mind.'). There's delicacy too, as in the wistfully plucked 'Never Sell the House', which is pleasingly reminiscent of the sensitivity of early Belle and Sebastian. There's a political element here too, a personal manifesto that runs through much of this record. There’s the early REM-eqsque chiming ‘Horoscope’ that dwells on a frustrated love affair that makes him question his entire life, railing first against materialism, the idea that our lives are mapped out, then a yearning to escape home shores, finally sending his lover on the way with a bitter Cocker-esque kiss off. ('You come from a family who can afford to be eccentric/go back and cry to them'.) Cats on Fire could have produced another set of tunes too overly in awe of their thinly veiled influences, but mostly their delightful interpretations of the classics of the C86/Postcard era mean that I for one thoroughly enjoyed this album. Sure, it's not wholly original, the references at times threaten to outshine it. But it’s peppered with enough addictive tunes, poised vocal performances, and what separates it from the many of jangle pop throng are the clever lyrics that draw pictures of the personal politics of human relationships. It's this that will have you reaching for the repeat button, seeking out these tuneful pearls, which makes ‘Our Temperance Movement’ a qualified success. --God Is In The TV
Music is one of the few ways we can revisit the past through our senses. Listeners tend to eternally place themselves in a particular emotional or social location after hearing a song, and this consequently creates a memory or impression of sorts that is often indescribable in words. It can only be accurately relayed as a series of subjective personal emotions. When we hear that specific song several years after our first listen, that emotion is bound to occur again. Whether through mere hypothetical remembrance or direct action, the impact a song or album has on us is never forgotten. In addition to audible and visual reception, taste can certainly allow this as well. The smell of warm cookies is often interpreted as homely and receptive because we often correlate it with our mothers’ tireless dedication. Songs are remembered similarly, although more subtly of course. Defined by popular culture as much as our own experiences, this instilled nostalgia can be both a positive and detrimental entity in artistic criticism. For example, comparing an artist to The Smiths has been commonplace this decade since their influence has been growing unarguably across several genres. But wherever there is a heralded artist, the existence of criticism is also imminent. Melodramatic, linear, and gimmick-y are a few words that have been used to criticize The Smiths before, so one could assume their prevalent followers would inherit the same critics and explanations for criticism, right? Cats on Fire are one of the few groups alive that deserve individuality in this sense. They take listeners back to mid-’80s Britain with familiarly clawing jangle-pop, led by a witty vocalist that sounds part operatic and part maudlin balladeer in his somber and quivering delivery. Their familiarity to certain jangle-pop legends are evident by now, we get the point. For this familiarity to negatively impact the band’s work, though, would be an absolute crime. This is simply the music they grew up on, and for once within the stream of new artists it has nothing to do with image or commercial appeal. They obviously are going to be attractive to the hordes of Smiths fans, but this demographic is hardly their only one. Cats on Fire encompass a rare form of sincerity that should appeal to fans of outstanding pop music in general, plain and simple. Morrissey, Felt, and the Go-Betweens all show up for a cup of tea at some point throughout Cats on Fire’s second full-length, Our Temperance Movement, but none stay and chat for too long. The treatment of their influences can be integral in determining whether an artist prefers to imitate or innovate, and tending to such obvious artists more out of respect than imitation is how Cat on Fire’s evident growth in maturity is demonstrated on Our Temperance Movement. Although there remains enough variation in tempo and tone throughout to compensate for a rather straightforward delivery of jangle-pop gems, some influences do stand strong. “Lay Down Your Arms” is more distinctively borrowing from The Smiths, playfully reminding us of Johnny Marr’s little skiffle in his acoustic arrangements and Morrissey’s witty musings on disappointed impressions. “I guess the city people never liked my pen, so it’s back to scenic pastures once again,” Mattias Björkas sings, continuing the album’s theme of emotional and geographical relocation in response to the perils of consensual disappointment. Our Temperance Movement is a rather apt title in this regard, as the four-piece traverse through a variety of stylistic compositions without ever becoming lost in excess. These are solid and impeccably arranged tracks and their precise songwriting is evident. This songwriting, a virtuous use of arpeggios, and rich melodies are the album’s biggest strengths. “The Borders of This Land” is one example of this arpeggiated mastery, which can be a tricky device for pop musicians considering its tendency to run rampantly and excessively. Remember how Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame dropped jaws with his acoustic work on gems like “Oblivious”, or how Johnny Marr accentuated Morrissey’s sullenly unique voice to the utmost perfection with his arpeggiated chords and interesting tonal production (from simple jangle-pop to the the oscillating overdubs and slide guitar in “How Soon Is Now?”, for instance). The guitar work on tracks like “The Borders of This Land” and “The Steady Pace” bring to mind legendary accompanists like these, but acoustics are not the only force at work. Keyboards, as any jangle-pop legend could tell us, can be just as vital. The trickle of keys toward the conclusion of “Lay Down Your Arms”, the contagious use of muted harmonics on “Letters From a Voyage to Sweden”, or the burst of triumphant awe in “Horoscope” all provide plenty of satisfying variation. “Tears in Your Cup” also makes great use of this key-based accentuation. Although its progressions are merely reflective of the acoustic guitars, the additional pitch creates graceful circumstances for Björkas’ amiable delivery. This keyboard-acoustic fusion throughout Our Temperance Movement also reminds me of The Housemartins in their more upbeat approach to the jangle-pop genre, which in my opinion makes a comparison to them more relevant than The Smiths. Although Björkas does speak occasionally of being lowered into the ground, political injustices, and the subjugation of Karl Marx, his morbidity is much more restrained than his predecessors. The group even reaches hints of optimism in tracks like a “Letters From a Voyage to Sweden”, a perkily infectious tale of a Swedish-bound cruise-liner filled with adulterers and sexual deviants. While Our Temperance Movement is certainly more catered to admirers of ’80s jangle-pop from Scotland and the UK, this Finnish four-piece has produced a modern gem that should open the genre up for others to explore beyond stereotypes (most of which involve The Smiths). It is one of the most charming and genuinely infectious pop releases of the year.
Our Temperance Movement, the second release by four poppy Finns, Cats on Fire, pairs gorgeous guitar with extraordinary lyrics and bright, frosted hooks written by vocalist Mattias Björkas. Opener “Horoscope” tells, “I don’t believe in happy ever after / A pyramid scheme I keep telling you / Closer. “ “Fabric"’s” honky-tonk rhythm belies its self-destructive cry, “Breaking the bones of a lover / Moving right on to another.” Catch the in-between offering “Garden Lights”: “I’m one of the fallen leaves covering your garden / Blackened by neglect from you.” “Tears in Your Cup” examines rockers like the Yardbirds and Ten Years After, “It’s you and the Stones sharing some alcohol / You’ll have whatever Keith has.” Elsewhere, “The Border of This Land” juxtaposes war heroes and civilian emotional residue, while “The Steady Pace” foreshadows abandonment and yields rich harmonies. A pretty five-note glockenspiel embraces “Never Sell the House” with welcome-mat magnetism, “Come on and meet me when I come home / I’ll shovel all the snow.” --Pop Matters
Don't look now, but one of the best British indie bands of the decade isn't from Britain at all. At least not strictly speaking. Cats On Fire's passport pin them as Finnish nationals, but the band's sophomore set, Our Temperance Movement, pins the band as long-lost sons of The Smiths, Felt and Pulp. Scandinavian indie-pop traditions be damned: Cats On Fire are the sort of pop act any Anglophile on this side of the Atlantic should be watching. The band doesn't change its tack on Our Temperance Movement from its approach to 2007's debut effort, The Providence Complains (Marsh Marigold). Why would it? Wrapping up that wonderfully conflicting mix of jangly, sunny mornings and hints of morose, drizzly afternoons, Our Temperance Movement flirts with the same spirit as the Marr/Morrissey collaborations, and singer/guitarist Mattias Björkas' handsome, confident delivery carries the power of everyone from Morrissey to Jarvis Cocker. Swells of acoustic guitar intertwine with electrics for pure bed-sit pop bliss that recalls a million independent bands before Cats, and the band's reliance upon pop fundamentals doesn't just cut through the waves of indie-pop fashion, but grounds it as basic great music. Who but the most picky fan can complain about a return to such solid form? With the recent demise of The Lucksmiths, Cats On Fire serve to stand as primary defenders of the old-school indie pop flame. It burns bright throughout Our Temperance Movement. It's nothing but classic pop mastery in "Letters from a Voyage to Sweden," as a steadfast acoustic guitar holds down rhythm duties as an electric sings blithely, while Björkas sings about smarmy misbehavior below decks. "Garden Lights" could easily be mistaken for a light pop number with its competing bass and guitar melodies -- like XTC with an extra guitarist on hand -- if you don't catch the subtleties of the lyrics, a story about mislaid drunken vengeance and arson. "Never Sell the House" is a maudlin number pushed forward by droning organs in its background, and "Lay Down Your Arms" and "The Borders of This Land" are a near-perfect blend of sugar melodies and restraint. Cats On Fire cornered the market on British indie rock. It wasn't too hard: The band's blend of '80s and '90s influences that spans your record collection polished its chops, and Britain's sagging pop culture did the rest. Finland, welcome to the (musical) Empire. --Aversion.com
This is some of the highest caliber pop music I’ve heard in a long time. These Finns have studied all the 80’s alt bands, and pulled off their very own brilliant little disc, doing the decade some serious violent pop justice. Clearly drawing on the songbooks of The Housemartins, The Proclaimers, and The Go-Betweens, and a little Edwyn Collins for your morning vitamin-C laden beverage fans. There’s not so much as a dull beat anywhere on here. They’ve been at it since 2001, and their practiced efforts have truly paid off. Some highlights for you kids; the opening track Horoscope, Tears In Your Cup, and Garden Lights, and also the WHOLE FREAKING RECORD. Go, right now, go get up and put your hands on it. --Closet Trekkie
In their second album Cats on Fire display their finely honed good taste with a selection of songlets which evoke the likes of The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian and Kings of Convenience. They've been criticised for this elsewhere, but it's hard to question the combination of influences that are woven into the silken fabric of this album. Listening to it is like coming home to find that your beloved record collection's had a bonkfest and produced a beautiful baby in your absence. The band's musical range is remarkably varied - the full school orchestra (including, if my ears do not deceive me, an oboe) is out in force on 'Garden Lights', which considers the benefits of burning down your ex's place after they've moved out. To be fair, burning down any house is still a useful way of expressing post break-up anger, which this song does with poise. The lamentful line, "Alone in this evil dream/ here with oil and matches/ flicker when I think of you...I often do" packs all the gut-wrenching, heart-tearing torment of lost love into the simplest expression. 'Never Sell the House' shows childish nostalgia butting resiliently against unwanted change: "And you'll never sell the house/ we'll always have our own rooms/ Me, my sister and the cat". The xylophone on this tune comes straight from the playroom, and whilst you're never quite clear what they're getting at it's jolly nice trying to work it out. Our Temperance Movement is as solid a second album as you'd want to come across - lyrically surprising, intelligent and exquisitely melodic. These Cats are well worth a listen. --For Folk’s Sake
You may think that Cats on Fire is kind of a bad name for a band, but since I don’t speak Finnish I’m giving the benefit of the doubt that there was something lost in translation in the name of this Finnish band. If you are one of those people lamenting the fact that Morrissey has finally gone off the deep end with his worst album ever, then Cats on Fire will be a refreshing breeze on your uncompressed pop sensibilities. Incorporating rockabilly, janlgy guitars and delicate smooth voice of Mattias Björkas, then Cats On Fire are going to be your cup of tea. The first Cats on Fire album, The Province Complains came out on German label Marsh-Marigold and was relegated to import status here in the States. That is no such problem with album number two, Our Temperance Movement. Matinée, will be doing honors of putting out the album at very reasonable price. --The Finest Kiss
Let’s get it out of the way: Finnish quartet Cats On Fire have been listening intently to The Smiths and Morrissey. Like many others. However, songwriter, guitarist and singer Mattias Björkas sounds at times so much like The Moz on this followup to 2007s acclaimed debut, ‘The Province Complains’, that concepts like twilight zone seem appropriate to apply. And this is the Achilles heel of ‘Our Temperance Movement’. Mainly because the overall sound and feel makes Björkas’ bittersweet and quite entertaining lyrics on love, human interaction and behavior - the latter pinned in the acidic commentary on the hedonistic time warp that is the ferry trip between Finland and Sweden, ‘Letters From A Voyage To Sweden’ - the artistically original highlight. However, if you can look beyond (or ignore) the obvious correlation between Cats On Fire and the above mentioned heroes, you will find yourself enjoying an immensely pleasing pop-rock album while being impressed by the Finn’s abilities to write and deliver sumptuous, jangly songs carving a sardonic smile on summer’s face.
I’m easily confused, because I thought these guys were surely from Australia or New Zealand, but it turns out they’re Finnish. If you’ve got a sense for the kind of pop that I might associate with those countries (cf, the Clean, the Go-Betweens, any Flying Nun — or we can make the Northern Hemisphere comparisons to Sarah or Postcard Records). So it’s got some jangle is what I’m saying. But just because the comparisons come easily, don’t think that Cats on Fire are an act you can ignore. When Mattias Bjorkas, in opener “Horoscope,” sings, “I’m not a fool who buys bottled water,” he gives the sense that he’s ready for a challenge. The music goes easy, and you might miss the energy of the lyrics, whether it’s the frustrations of “I hate the nouveau riche” in “Letters from a Voyage to Sweden” or the bitter flame of, “A senseless act of vengeance is what I’ve decided upon” in “Garden Lights”. Juxtaposition between musical sound and lyrical content isn’t enough to make an album interesting, but the group manages to build to striking, examined emotions throughout the course of the disc, creating an album worth revisiting on any number of levels. It’s easily the best Finnish indie-pop record with strains of Glaswegian and New Zealander music that I’ve heard in ages. And I didn’t even mention the British rock allusions in “Tears in Your Cup.” --Cave 17
With great melodies, perfect arrangements, and a tongue-in-cheek mopey sense of humor, Finland's Cats on Fire have put their own fresh spin on the best of early-'80s jazzy jangle. --Soundbites
I can hardly stop beating myself up enough to post tonight, but I guess if I’m going to be listening to something when I’m this filled with self-hatred, it might as well be Cats on Fire, because not only do they have a nice, destructive name, but they are also just the right amount of upbeat with a good dose of cynical reality. I’ve been listening to Cats on Fire for a couple of weeks now, and I love them, but I’ve been at a loss as to what to say about them. When Eric introduced them to me, he labeled them as kind of a happy version of the Smiths, which I definitely agree with, but then today we had a conversation about how they sound so familiar (to me) and I cannot for the life of me figure out why. We nixed Belle & Sebastian (any of it) today. The Magnetic Fields? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s the vocals? It will continue to drive me crazy until I die. I must accept that they have a unique sound that is comforting in its familiarity…although the reason it is familiar is…just one of their mysteriously special qualities… I’m full of shit. Anyway, Cats on Fire has released a few things–singles, EP’s, CD’s, blah blah, but right now I am listening to and talking about Our Temperance Movement. They are from Finland but Matinée Recordings released it in the US in April, and its track listing is different than it is in the UK, which is odd (to me) but cool. In a very weird and “I’m still full of shit” sort of way, what I like about Cats on Fire’s (Cats’ on Fire? The eternal question of who possesses…) sound is similar to what I like about The New Pornographers’ (The New’s Pornographers) sound, which comes down to line and layers for me; it’s something about how the lyrical lines are backed by long phrases, creating an awesome backdrop of sound. This might sound crazy, but I don’t really care. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Cats on Fire really sound(s) like The New Pornographers. I think the line is also what gives the album such a great flow. Each song is both its own entity and part of the bigger picture of the album, which may seem obvious, but also there are a lot of artists who don’t try to achieve this, or who try and fail. This is why the concept of “the album” is dead. Discuss. Every song I’m like, ohh this is probably one of my favorites! But then I change my mind as soon as I start the next song. Then I start the CD over again and the process begins once more. They do tender, melancholy, and melodic beautifully (“Our Days in the Sun,” “Never Sell the House”), and they do a bit more upbeat and driving fantastically as well (“Lay Down Your Arms,” “Tears in Your Cup”). You can’t get a better blend. It’s like damn good coffee. Lyrically, Cats on Fire are witty and precious, my two favorite things about people and bands. Take, for instance, “Never Sell the House”: the man you danced with was most certainly too old/he wouldn’t tell but i think the stale (?) smell gave away/come dementia you’d be kicking yourself/so let go. God forbid we be kicking ourselves come dementia. Or: come on and meet me when i come home/without you even askin i’ll shovel all the snow/and you’ll never sell the house/we’ll always have our own room. Both witty and precious in one song. They also give good advice, for instance, too much adultery just poisons your mind. That was “Letters from a Voyage to Sweden.” Good thing to remember. Anyway, I hope you love Cats on Fire as much as I do, and I hope you buy their album because it is really quite wonderful and you will not be disappointed, especially if you are a fan of the Smiths or Belle & Sebastian or The New Pornographers or the Magnetic Fields, or really anyone with talent, and especially if you are not sure how to do plurals or whether to capitalize the “the” in front of band names. --The Indie Handbook
“Our Temperance Movement” is the second album from Cats On Fire. And there’s no need talking about the “difficult second album”, because our favourites from Finland have advanced their sound and expression within the regions of what we’re used to hear from them. And why shouldn’t they, because when it comes to jangly guitar pop with smart lyrics, in their game they’re quite unbeatable! Take parts of The Smiths, One Thousand Violins and Happydeadmen, throw in a sparkling Felt guitarist on top, add a warmer, more intimate production and you get the idea... Or maybe like this: Cats On Fire has made another excellent album! How about that!? Highly recommended! --Fraction Discs
I've never liked The Smiths, that may however be the same as I've never liked the Beatles, cos I’m stubborn and have never let myself get to know them. Apparently Cats on Fire sound alot like The Smiths, the band that is, you arsonists!, and I like Cats on Fire alot. A very strong album with Tears in Your Cup being the cherry on top, one of my most played tracks in 2009. --I'd Rather Be Fat Than Be Confused
This Finnish foursome do not endorse cruelty to animals but do enjoy a haiku from time to time. The indie rockers have cool storybook names like Björkas and Höglund and produce jingle jangle tracks that make you want to share Temperance with the world. --The List
La segunda entrega de los finlandeses se torna agradable desde su primera escucha. Tal y como se esperaba, nos vuelven a enriquecer con melodías invernales y nostálgicas. Comenzando con la delicada ‘Horoscope’, las reminiscencias a The Smiths se siguen evidenciando, sobre todo en temas como ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ y ‘Letters from a Voyage to Sweden’. Más melancólico y libre de teclados que su debut, The Province Complains (Marsh Marigo, 2007), el disco está compuesto por un conjunto de buenos temas, bien construidos y acompañados por el potente y fino registro de su vocalista, Mattias Björkas. Cats on Fire pasó la siempre complicada prueba del segundo disco y –como dice el mejor tema del disco, ‘The Steady Pace’–, siguen a paso firme. --Extravaganza!
Cats On Fire’s Our Temperance Movement is an absolutely fabulous record. I’ve felt really bad because I’ve been such a lazy boy and haven’t praised it at onechord.net. It really is worth all the hearts in the world and so far it’s easily the main contender for my album of the year award. Well done again. --One Chord To Another
It's not that I HATE cats, it's just that I am a dog person. That being said, I fully admit to laughing out loud when seeing the name of this Finnish band - Cats On Fire. Since said laughter came in the middle of a long, tedious day at work, it seemed like the least I could do was to check out their music...and I am so glad I did. The band's new record is called 'Our Temperance Movement' and full of pure indie pop glee, one song after another will just leave you wanting to hear more. And any songwriter who can turn the phrase "“I don’t believe in happy ever after / A pyramid scheme I keep telling you" is awesome in my book. --The Swill Merchant
"It's a long road to Manchester" und ein noch viel längerer Weg bis ins finnische Turku. Cats On Fire, die sich in der zweitgenannten Stadt heimelig fühlen, haben sich aufgemacht, um eben diese Distanz zu überwinden und alle nationalen Klangfarben aus dem Weg zu räumen. Das gelingt ihnen gut. Leichtfüßig und dennoch voller dandyhaftem Zynismus wandeln Cats On Fire auf den Pfaden von Johnny Marr und Steven Patrick Morrissey, die von 1982 bis 1987 die Blaupause für den englischen Indie-Pop der 90er lieferten. Doch der Smiths-Stempel funktioniert immer noch bestens, und auch die juvenile Tinte scheint niemals zu versiegen. "You still find truth in the follies of youth", bemerkt auch sogleich Matthias Björkas in "Horoscope" und eröffnet damit einen paraphrasierten Wortstrom, der thematisch viele Referenzen setzt und keine prekären Fettnäpfchen auslässt. Selten zuvor wurden Zynismus und Selbstironie so gesellschaftsfähig gemacht wie auf "Our Temperance Movement". Selten zuvor konnte man auch noch so gut dazu tanzen. Feiern und resignieren auf hohem Niveau, herzlich willkommen im Rezessionsjahr! --Intro.de
En marskväll innanför trånga tegelväggar, leende ansikten vartän du såg. Mellan bordet och bardisken stod jag, drog bläckstreck över ett gammalt uttjänt kuvert. Sakta och allt efter hand växte så ett träd upp framför mig; ett träd med rötterna i The Kinks, med stammens årsringar nynnandes Big Star- och The Go-Betweens-låtar, med kronan vajande i brisen av The Smiths. Nöjd ritade jag sedan en ståtlig gren, skrev på den »Cats On Fire«. Anledningen till varför jag tecknade var nämligen att datumet och lokalen innebar releasefest för »Our Temperance Movement«, Vasa-bandet Cats On Fires andra fullängdare. Stunderna strax innan jag satte penna till papper hade två fjärdedelar av Cats On Fire – Mattias Björkas (sång, akustisk gitarr) och Ville Hopponen (elektrisk gitarr, kör) – underhållit från en låg scen. Och de inspirerade mig, fick mig att vilja skapa något. Utan att reflektera över saken började jag därför förvandla Cats On Fires musikaliska influenser – vad jag anser vara deras influenser – till ett träd. När jag som bäst betraktade mitt alster började dock kall elektricitet ila längs min ryggrad; en gammal bekant frustration signalerade sin ankomst.Varför är inte Cats On Fire ännu större?, väste den. Fröet följaktligen sått, plötsligt såg jag situationen med nya ögon. Allt var för litet; rummet, publiken. Hur kan ett sådant synnerligen melodiöst, väldigt intelligent och kompromisslöst eget band som Cats On Fire förnekas stadium, beundrare i drivor? Borde inte gatan utanför den här minimala krogen vara fyrdubbelt avspärrad vid det här laget, borde inte »A Hard Days Night«-scener utspela sig? Lyckligtvis avbröt en hälsande vän dessa grubblerier, han fick min hjärna att växla in på ett mer konstruktivt spår. Lugnad drack jag upp min öl, gick därefter hem. Väl tillbaka i min lägenhet knäppte jag i gång stereon och premiärlyssnade på »Our Temperance Movement«. Märkte hur den ledigt, lätt och självklart tog plats bredvid »The Province Complains« (Marsh Marigold, 2007), dess superba föregångare. Dansade och filosoferade strax till raderna Mattias croonerstämma levererade, förlorade mig i Villes sköna gitarrslingor, drevs framåt och manades på av Kenneth Höglunds bas och Henry Ojalas trummor. Stora ord skrevs ännu en gång utefter tapeterna framför högtalarna; Cats On Fire kan verkligen konsten att kreera pur, underbar pop. Ett faktum som står över mina önskningar om deras världsherravälde.Men visst vore det skönt om glöd, själ, kunskap och talang automatiskt kunde betyda stor framgång? Innan lamporna slocknade för natten lovade jag mig själv att vid första bästa tillfälle fråga Cats On Fire om deras åsikter i frågorna. Sedan somnade jag och drömde om fallande löv. --Sonic Magazine
"E' come se nei cromosomi di questi quattro ragazzi finlandesi, chissà come, fossero finiti – rimescolati per bene – i geni di una parte significativa della musica popolare inglese degli ultimi venticinque anni". Così scrivevevamo due anni fa a proposito di The Province Complains, disco d'esordio dei Cats On Fire. La band di Mattias Björkas, oggi alla seconda prova, conferma a tutti i livelli quella prima impressione: le dieci canzoni di Our Temperance Movement ripartono infatti dalla medesima obliqua freschezza melodica che avevamo tanto apprezzato e si fanno subito amare per inventiva, sottile ironia e immediatezza. Chitarre al centro, come sempre, con i loro jingle jangle morbidi e incisivi allo stesso tempo, mentre la voce sorniona di Mattias racconta piccole storie quotidiane che ricordano davvero moltissimo quelle intime e sorridenti di Pelle Carlberg: prendete l'iniziale folkeggiante Horoscope, l'incalzante e irresistibile Tears in your cup (che per l'appunto sembra uscita da un disco degli Edson dell'impareggiabile Pelle), oppure Letters from a voyage to Sweden e Garden lights, dove i Nostri mostrano tutta la loro adorazione verso l'indie pop essenziale e raffinato dei Go Betweens. La recentissima notizia che Our Temperance Movement verrà pubblicato anche negli States dalla benemerita Matinèe Records non può che ribadire quanto abbiamo già detto in passato dei Cats On Fire, ovvero che, tra una schiera di gruppi scandinavi che suonano molto simili (Starlet, Northern Portrait, Leopold, The Electric Pop Group, Starflower, ecc.), i finlandesi emergono per stile, intelligenza, capacità di scrittura e personalità. --Just Another Pop Song
Ricordo i Cats On Fire nel backstage di un festival qualche anno fa guardare un po' disgustati, chiusi in un cordiale e distante silenzio, un disordinato gruppo di band scolarsi fiumi di alcol, lasciarsi andare a cori e abbracci e poi perdere conoscenza qui e là. La sobrietà di Mattias Björkas e soci sembrava riflettersi non solo nel look, nella nitidezza delle musiche e nella misura con cui sceglievano le parole, ma anche nella vita di tutti i giorni. Così, ora che è uscito il loro secondo album Our Temperance Movement, mi domando quanto il titolo si riferisca alle oscillazioni dell'animo e all'instabilità di un cuore sensibile, o quanto invece ai movimenti proibizionisti dell'Ottocento (grazie a Jonathan per la dritta). Interrogativo alimentato anche da canzoni come Letters From A Voyage To Sweden, in cui il massimo piacere è osservare dall'alto gli altri smarrirsi nei bagordi e nella dissoluzione, oppure Horoscope, che non risparmia giudizi sulle "follies of youth". L'altra faccia della medaglia, però, è un tenace sentimento di perdita preventiva, simile a quello che si prova quando, al termine di una lunga relazione, le differenze sono maggiori di ciò che rimane in comune. Quel girare le spalle, ostinati e offesi, a chi conosciamo molto bene, quasi come se fosse proprio quello la causa, e come se ormai non fosse più possibile spiegarsi fino in fondo: "our island will soon be lost at the sea" (Our Days In the Sun). Assodato che le coordinate musicali restano sempre quelle di Smiths, Felt, Lucksmiths e simili, il disco nel suo insieme suona più omogeneo e compatto del precedente The Province Complains, più pop e meno folk, anche se si può dire che forse manca qualche affondo più appuntito, e l'apertura di Tears In Your Cup in effetti promette più di quanto il resto riesca a mantenere. In ogni caso, Our Temperance Movement è un album che conferma la scrittura dei Cats On Fire come una delle migliori e più interessanti che l'indiepop abbia espresso in questi anni. --Polaroid