New Release Rack: The Catbirds’ “Catbirds Say Yeah”

Catbirds Say Yeah

Review by Greg Haymes

Who are the Catbirds, you ask?

Well, according to their website, “If Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga had quadruplets, except somehow they ended up being kind of musical in addition to being rather large and rubbery, and it happened about 50 or 60 years ago, well, presto! – the Catbirds.”

And according to the promo sheet that was wrapped around the band’s delightful full-length debut when it landed in my mailbox, “We’re old and weird looking, just like everyone else, but louder.”

But, of course, if you’ve been paying attention, you already know that the Catbirds are one of the 347 bands led by the mighty musical maverick Chandler Travis, who also serves as the ringleader for the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, the Chandler Travis Philharmonette, the Chandler Travis Three-O, Chandler Travis and, well, you get the idea, right?

For the Catbirds’ line-up, Travis rounded up drummer Rikki Bates and guitarists Dinty Child and Steve Wood from his stable of bandmates and dove head-first into the deep end of good, ole-fashioned garage rock.

It’s raw. It’s raucous. And it’s oh-so-very rockin’. Brimming over with distortion-laden, buzzsaw guitars, thunderclap drum thumpin’ and howlin’-into-the-wind vocals. Subtle, it ain’t.

The 12-track disc on the Iddy Biddy label cracks open with some wailin’ harmonica as they launch into the sweaty swagger of “All I Wanna Know,” which sounds like it came from the ’60s rather than from a bunch of guys in their 60s. Bates packs quite a big-drum wallop on “Don’t Say No” and gallops through “Stoned” like a bat out of hell (a real bat, not the Meat Loaf album). A few tunes are laced with a bit of a psychedelic frosting, and several of the mid-disc tunes take on a lighter, NRBQ-esque bounce instead of the usual crank-it-to-11-in-dad’s-basement, crash ‘n’ burn aesthetic.

It’s no surprise that Travis leads the way with seven songwriting credits (including a trio of co-writes with Greenwich’s own Mayor of Duplex Planet, David Greenberger), but each of the ‘birds pitches in with a contribution or two, and there’s not a clunker among ’em.

They close out the album with a couple of well-chosen covers, including a tribal, amp-buzz-fueled stomp through “Pajama Pants Baby” deftly plucked from the vast, visionary catalog of Adirondack rock recluse Pete Labonne. And for sheer crunch ‘n’ punch, they wrap up the set with the Holland-Dozier-Holland gem “Leaving Here,” which drops a sonic bomb here that’s much more akin here to the fab Motorhead cover than the Motown original.

Last year’s Viborate EP offered a taste of what was to come, but for the most part Catbirds Say Yeah rocks harder, making for a more satisfying, fuzz-bustin’ listen.

The Catbirds celebrate the release of Catbirds Say Yeah with a bash at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock at 9pm on Friday (September 14). Tix are $10.

  1. Denise Borden says

    a Great review here by Greg Haymes of the Catbirds new release “Catbirds Say Yeah”! and for anyone lucky enough to be in the Brooklyn area tonight – Thursday Sept. 13th The Catbirds will celebrate their 1st of 2 NY State CD release parties at The Knitting Factory ..and tomorrow Friday Sept. 14th at Bearsville Theater in Woodstock NY..doors open at 8 PM / show at 9PM
    Brooklyn based band “Cathy” will open both shows.. “Cathy ” is headed by the very talented Jeremy Willis who happens to be the nephew of Chandler Travis …

  2. John Brierley says

    Both Catbirds and Phillharmonic are uber-great. Hard to belive you could get that many talented people into the same band. They did a letter perfect version Instant Karma for an encore….yikes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. philthyrex says

    It’s a rocking little number for sure. Wish it had “First Warm Day” on it though. Don’t forget that Chandler and Rikki play in the long running Incredible Casuals with Johnny Spampinato (ex-NRBQ, current Spampinato Brother).

  4. LP says

    Nice review Greg….if you wanna get rocked….get this one by the Catbirds…got mine last week and it is great.

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