Glaswegian rockers Catholic Action first slipped on their leather pants in late 2014 when Chris McCrory, former drummer in underground faves Casual Sex recruited Jamie Dubber (bass), Ryan Clark (drums) and Andrew Macpherson (guitar) for a glam rock knees up.
After building a stellar reputation on the Glasgow scene, the quartet have finally put together their debut record In Memory Of and while their knack for killer choruses is intact, there’s a sense that their idiosyncratic grab bag approach doesn’t lend itself particularly well to making a coherent album.
For a record that takes such pride in its DIY roots that the accompanying press pack contains a list of costs suggesting they made the video to the lead single for £7.68, it’s a remarkably well put together collection, with crisp, bright production and a multitude of hooks ringing out like church bells.
Devoted acolytes of Catholic Action will find many of these tracks familiar, though sadly there seems to be no room for their glam rock stomp ‘Rita Ora’.
Instead the record kicks off with the NME-endorsed ‘L.U.V.’ and new single ‘Propaganda’, which fires up the retro synths for a lo-fi blast of garage-pop lasting less than two minutes; as punchy intros go, it’s hard to beat, exploding out the door like a small child that’s had too many fizzy sweets.
‘Say Nothing’ could be The Cribs, with cool, detached vocals; a twitchy guitar lines and girl group handclaps, while another previous single ‘Breakfast’ is a peppy stomp that repurposes sleepy early morning philosophising as self-help.
At their best Catholic Action channel both the humour and the classic power pop songwriting of bands like Cheap Trick or The Cars and it’s when Catholic Action compress themselves into these compact forms that the best moments on In Memory Of arise.
‘New Year’ is a cheery strut that could easily pass for Slade or ELO, while ‘Doing Well’ is a scrappy indie rocker with some rollicking guitars.
Other experiments don’t go quite as well: ‘The Shallows’ takes an intriguing premise – McCrory’s memories of an infamous suicide spot in Erskine, where it wouldn’t be uncommon to find washed up shoes – but never really delivers on it, trudging along somewhere between Oasis and their pub rock forerunners.
Meanwhile the showboating guitar of ‘The Real World’ is a great cock rock moment in search of a tune.
The record comes to a close with the sleepy classic pop of ‘Childhood Home’ and ‘Stars and Stripes’, which may not have anything particularly prescient to say about the present state of America but does manage a great recreation of The Who’s beefy acoustic-meets-electric sound and a great chorus.
In Memory Of will be a salve for all of those who thought that leather waistcoats and cowboy boots were on the way out.
It might lack that killer salvo but it’s an enormously fun record made by a young band with a lot of talent.
Words: Max Sefton