LonsterRag Reviews.

April, 1998
"House Combinations" 
The Kat Club!  
General Records  

House Combinations, the Kat Club’s first release on General Records, takes me back, brings me forward, knocks me to my knees, and just when I think I've figured it out, it throws me over its shoulder and burps me like a baby! It may well be the first neo-pop/R&B classic, on the cusp of the millennium, or it might be impossible to define...and that's fine too.  

The Kat Club consists of three people, two are living and one is dead. And as you know—Kats do have nine lives...the currently living members are Freddy Moore: writing, vocals, guitar and stringed instruments; Dennis J. Peters: production, bass guitar, vocals, harmonica, piano, and drums. The dead guy is Allen J. Galles: drums, vocals, and organ (donor?). So if you do not believe in ghosts now, you soon will. From the glowing pop guitar harmonies of "talk of the town" (Its Not A Rumour), to the downtown street corner "do-wop" a Capella + harmonica of Al’s End (more please), you are transported through a virtual history lesson in Americana.  

On several cuts, composer Moore pays tribute to one of his song writing idols, Willie Dixon, by taking the blues yet another step away from its 12-bar, walking bass formula.  On (Don't That) Make Me A Man the lyrics serve as a libretto for a short three-act play.  The 'man' in verse one claims he's the 'biggest' man because he's got money, the second 'man' claims he's more of a man because he's got a beautiful young girlfriend, while 'man' no. 3 claims he's got them all beat because he's got a gun and he's willing to use it!    (Together) Like This sports a jazzy-altered-blues groove reminiscent of Steely Dan, with lyrics cataloging some of Moore's sandtraps-of-life, quite enjoyable!  Producer Dennis Peters does triple duty on another altered-blues, Danitra, singing all lead and harmony vocals while simultaneously playing bass guitar and blues harp.  

Dennis Peters' lead bass guitar is prominently featured in California, Here I Come, a sprawling epic, about a blue-collar Midwesterner's mythical journey to the Promised Land.  He leaves his job and family and runs away in an attempt to bag a rich old lady in LA.  The music…try to imagine one of Levon Helms' mandolin-flavored Band songs crossed with the Who.  You Want It All springs forth from a fountain of verbiage, a Dylanesque stream-of-consciousness about an impending break-up that happily sounds like David Bowie or Elton John covering a Dylan song.  On Advice, one of the catchiest cuts, Moore ends up singing like Ric Ocasik doing Dylan, while being backed by Fleetwood Mac.  

The 'power-pop' song, It's Not A Rumour dates back to the Nu Kats' Plastic Facts disc released by Rhino in 1980, but here the Kat Club present a more mature, direct, raw rendition, which made me think "hey, these guys had the Seattle Sound down a decade before it  became the Next Big Thing!” 

A classic pub-rocker, ala Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, Midnight Motel is about the adulterous entertainment the band discovered was quite popular while touring the small towns of North America.  The oddest, and therefore most intriguing cut is a chord-less, jazzy groove called Africentricity, the very few lyrics are about man's prehistoric origins in Africa. Producer, Peters, keeps the listener interested by deploying a spinning array of cinema-sonic images.  

On many of the album's songs, lyricist Moore attempts proselytizing from his bully pulpit.  A Germanic church organ fugue serves as the set up for God Is (My Tool) which then launches into a raunchy Van Morrison-ish groove.  Moore and Peters sing about friends, family and historical figures who have used God to get other people to do things their way.  In New Cage the band members sing about the similarities between the old organized religions and new age belief systems.  Little Darlin's lyrics are as direct as its sparse instrumentation: A lonely baby-boomer wants to have a baby with or without a husband, and the lyrics simply ask, "is she doing this for the wrong reasons?"  Another bare boned arrangement of drums, bass, guitar and vocals is used to present I'm Still Hangin'.  The lyrics detail a narrow escape from heroin addiction.  

There are several tracks on House Combinations either sung by A.J. Galles or written about A.J. Galles.  The most romantic ballad on the album, The Winter's Tale, details the true story of Al Galles' courtship with his first wife, who was a carny, traveling the continent from April to November and then spending her winters in icy Minnesota with Galles. Moore sings the narrative.  (The Life Of) Donna Reed has mid-century sounding music to go along with its title. The lyrics proclaim a warning to all brides-to-be: your romantic fiancé will soon become just an old husband.  Galles' lead vocal is a sizzler, and Moore's lead guitar is pretty slippery!  Galles' sings lead vocal on Hit Me!. Moore states that the lyrics were written with Galles in mind. Hit Me! portrays the descent into alcoholism that eventually destroyed Galles' liver which eventually killed him.  Galles also sings lead on a short snippet from an older version of Me A Man, which is presented a Capella, as the final cut on the CD, a fond farewell to A.J. Galles.  

The CD is full of sleepers, diamonds that begin to glow at different times. The album seems to change shape as you continue to play it. The music, of course, is mature, made by men who know who they are and what they want to do. Its appeal to the ‘electronica’, sample-based dance audience seems, on the evidence, to be limited. What the Kat Club are attempting to do here is create a music all their own, music that does not jump on the latest band-wagon, music that is at once new and familiar, without being nostalgic.  
If you’ve got time enough for repeated listening, I recommend ‘House Combinations’.
(Lon Specter)

Demophonic Home Page. | Discograhpy. | The KAT CLUB Story.
Copyright© 2001-1007 Demophonic Publishing BMI. All Rights Reserved. .