Cat's Eyes - Treasure House

by Kevin Orton Rating:7 Release Date:2016-06-03

Treasure House is the second collaboration between the Horrors’ Faris Badwan and singer and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zaffira. By and large the results are a dreamy mix of Badwan doing his best Scott Walker to Zaffira’s Julie Cruise. Rather than duet, each sing on different songs with the other occasionally providing backing.

‘Treasure House’ is a gorgeous opener, Badwan’s deep vocals accompanied by Zaffira’s harp. ‘Drag’ boasts Zaffira’s whispery vocals, a beguiling melody awash in 60’s Baroque Pop trappings. It’s a bit contrived but so sumptuous, who cares? Without a doubt the Baroque Pop of Scott Walker and 60’s Pop chanteuses are what Zaffira and Badwan are endeavoring to evoke. ‘Chameleon Queen’ is also stunning, with Badwan taking lead on the vocals with horns and swirling organ. In the backround we can hear a taste of Zaffira's operatic soprano.

Sadly, the next two tracks are out of place amid the Dream Pop of the first few numbers. ‘Careful Where You Park Your Car’, is not only jarring and grating, its sounds like something cut from the Musical, Grease. Clearly meant to channel the Angels’ ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’, it’s all a little too cute and self-conscious. ‘Stand Off’ follows and sounds like a mix of mid era Stranglers and Wire. Amid the dreaminess of the rest of the album both stick out like a sore thumb. If they were meant to break the mood, they don’t particularly succeed. At best, they serve as a distraction of what's best about Treasure House.

Speaking of which, the arrestingly beautiful ‘Everything Moves Toward the Sun’ is an album hightlight. For the first time any self-consciousness and artifice is dropped. It possesses some real feeling as opposed to just trying to sound pretty.

‘The Missing Hour’ finds Badwan sounding very much like the Bad Seed’s Mick Harvey off the Serge Gainsbourg tribute, Intoxicated Man. ‘Girl In the Room’ brings us back to contrived 60’s Baroque Pop pastiche. All lush strings and moppet vocals drenched in reverb. ‘We’ll Be Waiting for You’ with its organ and Badwan’s echoed vocals boasts a gorgeous melody, and here again this album triumphs over its own contrivance. Most notable is Zaffir's wailing soprano in the background. ‘Names On Mountains’ is pretty piece of Cotton Candy Pop which goes gorgeously in one ear and out the other. Much of the same can be said of the album's closer, 'Teardrops'.

As talented as he is, Badwan's weakness has always been style over substance. As much as I appreciate his work with the Horrors, one always gets the sense he's playing at being someone else rather than himself. Be it the Nick Cave pose of Strange House or the Cure pose of Primary Colours. And when Cat's Eyes rises above its own artifice, and we are we given a glimpse of some heart and soul, its gratifying. I’m not going to lie, Treasure House is a very pleasant listen in many ways but not always that substantive.

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