Yes, kids; at long last, local favorite The Tom Katlees have an album proper.
The Tom Katlees have been around for a while. Frontwoman Lea Marra, whose annual Love Fest in Chardon asserts her as one of the most devoted patrons of the scene, tabbed drummer Joe Linsky and bassist Will Porter right out of high school, some 8 years ago. Since then, they’ve become a Cleveland staple.
Their timing could not be better. Their recent acquisition of guitarist Alex Madej (of Cellophane Jane and numerous other projects) has blasted them into high gear, and the album’s consistent energy gives the impression that this might be a band that’s just getting started.
What I love most about Vesper is that it’s dynamic. They experiment with loud/soft, fast/slow, start/stop, and layers of harmonies (including yours truly on a few songs). The Katlees want you to have fun, and they do a great job of keeping even a single song from growing stale.
Take, for example, the longest song. I often find that these are the weakest tracks on any album, so let’s observe. In this case, we’re analyzing “Philosophies,” which clocks in at 5 minutes flat. If you’re going to push that long, you’d better keep it interesting. Will Porter’s fat basslines ensure that for the first 3 minutes. Then, they revert to quiet, with handclaps, stomps, and an easy sing-along verse, which produces a great atmosphere live, and has translated excellently in the studio. That’s a hard task for even accomplished bands. Just ask pre-Joshua Tree U2.
I’m biased, but my favorite song is “Boris”. The first time they played it live, Lea said it still needed a name, and I shouted “BORIS!” I was apparently onto something, as they have kept it after all this time. The first song they wrote with Madej, it turned out to be a harbinger for a renewed spirit of innovation. It starts with an earworm riff in 7/8, and bursts with energy thereafter. Madej plays a campy lick in the prechorus that recalls the best of his work with The Pistolettes. It rocks as hard as anything here, maybe only outrun by “Bleached,” another banger.
I think the best song here is “Blue Forest”. It’s been a great live track forever. Lea loves The Cranberries, which is diplayed in this song’s resonant atmosphere. The Katlees brilliantly use negative space on the chorus. What makes this song so good is the way it achieves gorgeous textures, without ever breaking from the album’s upbeat rock feel.
Joe Linsky’s drumming is bombastic throughout. He has become one of the best drummers in the scene. He is an integral part of this band.
The album packaging is designed by Lindsey Bryan. She is a very nice lady with an irresistible smile, a Capricious style, and a dark grayish aura. Her bike of hornets invading the sleeve matches the heat of the record it adorns. I love the way it breaks its own boundary.
Vesper is a delightfully consistent album from a band that has been promising for ages, and finally delivers, with flair and gusto.