Monday, October 24, 2022

The Catburgers!

Sometime in late '86, or possibly very early '87, an advance cassette from Dan Treacy arrived with the words "this lot are great!" hand-scribbled on it.  It contained five songs from a Scottish group called The Catburgers. I played it a lot and was all set to write something on the group whenever Dan got round to releasing them via his label Dreamworld. Except the release never came out. In fact,  nothing by The Catburgers ever got released. 

I never completely forgot the tape - periodically I would rediscover it amid the clattery clutter of hard shells in the various boxes in which cassettes were stashed. Dug it out, gave it a play, and wondered whatever happened to the Catburgers.... 

A few years ago, thinking it a shame that these songs had never reached the public, I cheekily put the demo tape up on YouTube.  

These tracks are underproduced, to put it mildly. But something about the songs shines through the lo-fi scrawn and hissy murk. The Catburgers belong to that moment of groups like Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes and Beat Happening, but there's a musical element that sets them apart - perhaps it's the trace of Joy Division in the basslines you can hear in some of the tunes.  

Colour me surprised, but several weeks ago I heard from a young man called Fergus Jones, son of the singer + guitarist in The Catburgers. Fergus was in the process of putting out for the very first time some of the material recorded by his dad Robert Jones (vocals / guitar) and bandmates Stuart Macgregor (bass) and Andy Benton (drums). He'd seen the YouTube clip and was looking for decent quality audio for this phantom-EP (how I always heard the cassette, although who knows what configuration of the songs might have reached the scene, should they ever have been released.) 

And now a pair of Catburgers releases - The Dreamworld Sessions and The Rocking Horse Demos - are coming out on the Danish label FELT. The former is obtainable as vinyl and the latter as a tape. Dreamworld is also available digitally via Bandcamp.

Release rationale for Dreamworld Sessions

Swell Maps / Television Personalities affiliated C86-era indie pop rescued from sheer obscurity and thrust into semi-obscurity by FELT. The Catburgers were a short-lived Scottish group, this recording initially primed for release on Dan Treacy’s Dreamworld imprint yet placed on the perennial backburner as so many creative projects inevitably are.

Soundcloud uploads dating back over a decade ago and the odd blog/twitter post aside, the group lived on only in the memories of those who happened to catch them on the Edinburgh scene back in the day. Until now! With the help of the National Sound Archives, the original master tape containing these three tracks has been rebaked, cut and mastered for seven-inch.

‘Holiday House’ sounds immediately at home in the Postcard Records nexus, the influence of 1980 particularly tangible. Slower paced and with a touch more melancholy than its companions, the song sounds both in and out of time, as if some young teens raised on a hand-me-down diet of Pastels CDs might have laid it down yesterday.

Jowe Head of Swell Maps joins the group for ‘The Acid Tree’, whilst EP closer ‘Diving For The Brick’ sees the band ruminating on weak knees, sore lungs and stinging eyes down at the local swimming pool.

Letter from Mr Treacy to the band, indicating that I was among a very select company of media folk to receive this tape.