1998 – Smart Pussy Records
Rock/ Alternative/ Chamber Music
Catgut Ya’ Tongue is the debut album from Australian electric string quartet Fourplay, and it is a release that started me off very happy just because there is a pun in the title. The humour to be found in the group’s name and album title is also to found in the music as Catgut consists mainly of cover versions of well known songs rearranged for strings.
It kicks off with Theme From Dr. Who, and for any nerds reading this I am proud to announce that it performed incredibly well and adds an almost rock element to the piece. Then we move into the original composition Corrosion for a more laid back style of melancholy, and later some jazz by Nina Simone (the only track with actual vocals), and later still we move into the heavy metal of Metallica. This album really has a great scope of work, and it handles it all magnificently.
Sweetest Perfection (Depeche Mode cover) and The 2 Of Us (Suede cover) and sweetly sad and full of yearning while Led Zep Medley (The Ocean-Black Dog) and Enter Sandman are pounding and full of hard rock fun which makes for some interesting changes on a record that could so easily fall into the classical trap. The whole thing really comes across much more of a rock record than a chamber music one, which is really nice to hear.
But, to my mind, the greatest achievement of Catgut is the fact that these songs (perhaps with the exception of Enter Sandman and the Theme From The Simpsons) do not derive their exquisiteness from the fact they are cover versions, but rather from the fact that they are, in themselves, wonderfully arranged and performed pieces of music. For example, Jeff Buckley’s Grace is a song that I, personally, am not particularly fond of, however, when Fourplay take hold of it I found myself being swept along by the languid sadness that they manage to wrench out of their strings. And their version of The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage doesn’t contain the slightest element of ironic reference to the original, but rather takes the hip-hop tune and makes an angry semi-folk piece out of it.
I would say that Fourplay’s Catgut Ya’ Tongue? Is a great album in that it shows what non-traditional instruments can do in the rock arena. It might be nice to hear a few more originals from these guys, but the covers on this record have enough originality in their arrangement and performance that it pretty much makes up for this, and the passion and skill with which the group perform is a real treat. For some hardened electric guitar lovers this might not be their cup of tea, but I would argue the point that this record is more rock ‘n’ roll than many other things I have listened to, and it’s always good to broaden your horizons.
I would highly recommend this album to anyone interested in what rock music is capable of and even more to those who come from a much more classically inclined background. It is fun and moving, at once a work of art and a throwaway joke at the musical youth.
Here is Fourplay covering the Dr. Who theme tune with incredible talent and finesse.