As we battle through a global pandemic, on lockdown, removed from normal life, contained within our own brick-built prisons, introspection and self-analysis are a natural by-product of this enforced hibernation. For those respecting the government’s wishes to remain inside and avoid interaction with friends, family and others, music suddenly becomes an even more important salve for boredom and banality. In fact, music has always been this for me certainly, a wormhole, a burrow to bury myself, a welcome escape from the humdrum normality of life. I still find it amazing what power music has over me. I remember as a 15-year-old, I travelled to Nepal and spent a couple of months trekking up to Everest Base Camp, whilst helping to rebuild a recently burnt down monastery as well as eating Yak steak and getting pissed for the first time on strong Nepalese lager. Anyway, the point of this story is that after spending a few days acclimatising in Kathmandu, we took a flight to the Himalayan foothills.
Before leaving I decided to leave my Walkman in the hotel safe (fuck knows why) and thus, I was without music for almost 2 months. Upon my return to the capital and said hotel for a few days before we returned home to the UK, bejewelled with fluffy long hair, a layer of dirt a meter thick, a bumfluff moustache and somewhat spiritually awoken, I laid upon my bed and pressed play on said Walkman. Megadeth’s ‘In My Darkest Hour’ (from So Far, So Good, So What!) poured like liquid heroin into my ears and it suddenly made sense. Music was too important, to not be in permanent contact with ever again.
This is along arsed prologue into a review of Paul Catten’s first solo release and for that I offer no apology, even if I feel I am going to struggle to tie the loop on this train of consciousness. That said, Paul Catten’s musical output has always (see I am getting there) indispensable. From the thundering, ferocious, metal savagery of the gone but certainly not forgotten Medulla Nocte, to the dead eyed nihilism of Murder One (also featuring the late and much missed Iron Monkey commander in chief Johnny Morrow) to latter day projects such as Lazarus Blackstar and Barabus, Paul has always carved his own niche, not creating things for others, but seemingly ploughing his own furrow, pleasing himself, without a glance at popular conventions.
And so, to The Beauty of Decay, which confounds expectations as to what you may expect from this artist. Firstly, its not metal as you may naturally know it. It’s a collection of rock/pop songs that whilst immediate comparisons could be drawn to say Beck (who is covered here) and rock icons such as Faith No More, these artists would be a natural comparison, as Catten’s hugely powerful metal shrieks and growls, are sanded off into soulful crooning that recall the harder edged moments of The Smashing Pumpkins accompanied by the aforementioned Faith No More’s vocalist Mike Patton’s stylistic vocal range that’s prevalent on tracks such as ‘The Smell’ which shuffle along on a whispered threat and a tinkling piano that repels and entices in equal measures.
By definition, I am unsure if this album warrants a place on these hallowed pages based purely on musical aesthetic, but if it’s anything to do with me (it isn’t) then Paul Catten’s pulled something of a blinder here with a collection of songs that are compelling, dense and more importantly, finely hued slices of rock/pop nirvana that are as welcome as spot in the shade with a cold beer on a hot day. It’s impressive, given Catten’s previous musical oeuvre, to see him diversify into territories hitherto unexplored and so far removed from his previous output, it has to be commended, applauded and extolled from the rooftops. That this has been birthed by the hand flapping lunatic I saw tread the boards of the dingy toilet circuits of London with Medulla Nocte is an incredible metamorphosis that is as unexpected as it is delicious.
Music you see, is a journey, it’s the heartbeat that drives us forward, it’s the glint in our eyes, the spring in your step, the pathway to better things, the optimism, the thing to look forward to, the solver of issues and the bringer of light, the creator of tears and remorse, happiness, friendship and beauty. Thank you Mr.Catten, (and tying the loop) for the reminder that music is and always will be, in whatever form, a wonderous and joyous expression of humanity.
(9/10 Nick Griffiths)