Instead of starting this piece of rock 'n' roll writing with the usual flamboyant cynicism and literary devices, let's get right to the point – this is an album 'recorded' by a cat. Lil Bub, to be precise, a litter runt whose struggle and oddly cute appearance (she suffers from facial deformities) made her something of an Internet sweetheart, following in the pawsteps of the grumpy one, the surprised bipedal one, the one that wanted a cheeseburger and, of course, the one that played the keyboard, who never enjoyed commercial success but garnered widespread cult appeal. Can Lil Bub reach such heights?
Charm aside, it's an album by a cat. I can't bring myself to review it with a straight face – even if that is the default expression of the misanthropic, joyless lot that are us music critics. However, while the concept sounds like the most pretentious piece of musical effrontery since Lou Reed staged a concert for dogs, perhaps I lack the sensory perception of a feline to appreciate it. Perhaps it takes that kind of wit and whiskers to provide a fair critique. After all, if a cat can make an album, a cat can review it. And the purrrrfect candidate was within reach.
Back in a time when the music journalism industry was as much of a testosterone-fuelled boys' club as the scene it chronicled, Biscuit blazed a trail by not only being a self-educated, working class woman, but also by being a cat. She spent the '70s and '80s on the tour buses of Cat Stevens and Faster Pussycat. She swiped inquisitively at Hendrix's jacket frills during his legendary Woodstock performance, and was sprawled out, sleeping soundly as Nikki Sixx overdosed in a Los Angeles hotel room.
Having retired from the scene in 1992 following a near-death experience while on tour with Santana in South America – almost choking to death on her own furball at the end of a four-day catnip binge – today she lives a quieter life of being confounded by laser pens and napping in a box. She still infrequently dips a claw into the world of writing, but much like Van Halen would demand a bowl of M&Ms free of brown ones for their services, it takes Drowned In Sound three tins of tuna to lure her out of retirement for an evening to turn an expert ear to Lil Bub.
Offering an arthritis-afflicted paw – Biscuit is 97 in Lemmy years – she beckons you into the room. She's amiable but nonchalant, because she is a cat. Her verdant eyes follow you around the room, wary but generally uncaring, because she is a cat. Despite her status as a legend, she allows you to pet her as she takes in Science & Magic. She initially looks nonplussed, but occasionally her ears will flicker, a sign that her still-agile brain is working away, years of experience, knowledge, work, pain, highs and lows going into forming a complex, intelligent, thought-provoking opinion. She prefers not to talk as the album spins, and can't anyway, because she is a cat.
“Nyaaow. Nyaaow. Prrrr. Prrreow. Nyaaa” she eventually opines, which translates roughly as 'What unfolds is a capable record of spacey synth and what the kids might call chiptune, punctuated with a array of instrumentation and vocals consisting only of Lil Bub's purring – bits of it sound like what ELO could have been if Jeff Lynne had a tail. Realistically, it's performed well and some melodies will stick like glue – "Earth Sister" is a tune – but for the most part, these are the sort of Muzak-esque loops you'd find on a creative commons website or in the background of a technology show on CBBC. That said, given the runaway success of modern-day, retroactive games like Shovel Knight, there is a market for this kind of stuff, most likely among the proud nerds of yesteryear gaming. Either way, it's probably the best album by a cat this year and shows budding musicians and more developed mammals that you don't even need opposable thumbs to turn your imagination into music, much like another inspirational, cat-themed band called Def Leppard did back in the day.'
And with the apathetic yawn typical of her species, Biscuit hobbles into the den from whence she came, a piece of rock history nestled in a blanketed cardboard box.
Proceeds from the album will go towards animals with special needs via the ASPCA.
4Andy McDonald's Score