Phenomenal Cat is a six-piece rock band bringing their sound from Kent, UK. The band is big, the sound is big and so is their latest album Pop Wasteland. It is considered a double album with two dozen tracks. In their submission, the band described the album as “a rock n' roll soundtrack and accompanying graphic novel about a man who finds himself swept along in a crusade against the very establishment that made him.” I love a good story and appreciate this element a great deal. The music is inspired by iconic English bands ranging from the ‘60s to the ‘90s.
The music is very theatrical. You get classic rock with horns which give an almost ska element to it. Instrumentally the band is incredibly strong; they operate as a solid unit and bring a lot of energy. Vocally I was not as taken. There was lots of energy that I appreciated, and the lyrics are very intricate and fun. I have a feeling certain audio mixing choices may be to blame for my lack of love on the vocal end.
I did feel that I was straining for words more than a few times throughout my experience. The tracks are vibrant and a wild romp through a very elaborate story. It’s a good sound. However, a great deal of the tracks were a little too derivative from their influences for my taste. This made the music seem dated. Again I think certain audio production choices did not help.
An interesting element that had my little Star Wars nerd ears perk up was a narration element from actor Kenneth Colley. As a proud dark sider I immediately recognize him to be Admiral Piett from several Star Wars films. Unfortunately, I found this narration did nothing to enhance the music or experience. That’s not a knock on Mr. Colley’s performance. For one thing, the audio mixing for these narrations was a bit too muffled.
I understand the thought being to create an ominous and epic sort of tone but it missed the mark. There are also a lot of these narration tracks and after a while, it becomes more of a gimmick. I think if it had been less predictable as to when I would hear the narration again I would have been more into it. The narration makes up a healthy amount of the album’s length and I hate to say it, but after a while I was just trudging through.
This album is incredibly ambitious and I think it’s worth commending Phenomenal Cat on completing this endeavor. This is a creative band not afraid to take risks and do something that a lot of people would consider totally insane, I love that. Pop Wasteland is surely not lacking in the fun department. There’s lots to enjoy on a performance level. I would love to hear something a little less derivative and theatrical. I feel like a few modern twists on things like audio production and taking a few more steps away from their influences could give them a sound that is no longer just big, it could be freaking enormous
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