Patrick Cowley & Jorge Socarras - Catholic

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Catholic was the side project of Patrick Cowley, a producer whose legend was sealed by two releases: first by his astonishing 16 minute bootleg remix of Donna Summer's transcendent electro-disco classic 'I Feel Love', and then his remodeling of 'You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)' by Sylvester, which took the weeping gospel of the original and added a neutron blast of synthetic propulsion. Both records changed dance music and the clubbing experience forever, providing a soundtrack to the coming of age of the gay rights movements in Europe and America for good measure.

Unfortunately, by the time of his AIDS-related death in November 1982, Cowley was producing a kind of bland, ultra-synthetic Hi-NRG, typified best by his wipe-clean anthem 'Menergy'. It was a tragedy and a shame - the guy undoubtedly still had greatness inside him, and if there's any justice then the release of these long forgotten recordings, made with longtime friend Jorge Socarras, will redress the balance.

These songs, recorded in the mid-to-late 70s and rejected by Cowley's record company for being too uncommercial, sound to contemporary ears like a lost thread tying together the desperate worlds of 70s Krautrock, especially Kraftwerk, the proto-synthpop experiments of Suicide, and the dum-dum punk thrash of The Ramones. In fact, it's hard to believe these recordings were made by two men in San Francisco, a place not normally known for inspiring songs of chilly alienation, rather than some ratty squat in 70s Brooklyn or Manhattan. Or, come to think of it, gloomy Sheffield or rain-lashed Manchester.

But then this compilation proves Cowley had far more (here it comes, can't help it) Catholic tastes than anyone was giving him credit for. Opening track 'Memory Fails Me' could so easily find a home on Kraftwerk's Radioactivity album, while second track 'Robot Children (Do You Love Your)' sounds just like the kind of delicious art prank pop the early Human League specialised in. One could just imagine Phil Oaky deadpanning the words 'You say that you love fashion/ you say that you love cars/ but do you love your robot children?' Meanwhile, 'I Never Want to Fall in Love' sounds, astonishingly, exactly like an electro-pop version of The Ramones. 'I Am Your Tricks' even kicks off with The Ramones' trademark count in.

And so it goes on. 'Eddie Go to My Head' anticipates the new wave-meets-disco sound later patented by Grace Jones, but with a vocal that has all the nerdy-angsty mannerisms of David Byrne. 'Burn Brighter Flame' sounds like a blueprint for the gay boy diva noir of Marc Almond. 'Cars Collide', on the other hand, is unashamed, hysterical cock rock. Cock rock with synths.

But the standout track has to be the duo's improbable cover of 'Hurdy Gurdy Man', in which they reimagine Donovan's starry-eyed hippie standard as a robotic hymn to rainy days of quiet alienation by the seaside. It could be Tangerine Dream fronted by Morrissey, if you can get your head around that one.

Best Tracks: 'Hurdy Gurdy Man', 'Robot Children (Do You Love Your)', 'I Never Want to Fall in Love'

Richard Morris

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