When ‘Dispensable’ came out a few months earlier, it seemed more obvious than before that this five-piece was leaning towards the Foo Fighters in terms of their chord structures and how the song was phrased and recorded. Catch These Men has done nothing to prove this assumption wrong. But let’s put that aside for now and take a walk through the album with a clear palate to see what our local heroes have dished out for us on their debut LP.
The album opens with ‘Infernal’. Judging by the title, this should be a track that’d pummel you in the face and melt your brains out. Instead, you’re greeted with a slow-burning guitar, synth, and drum-only attempt at a cinematic introduction. Granted, the track speeds up, but it only leads into an elongated chordal-based flow – including some form of a solo where the band experiments with a draggy catch-and-release. Not exactly the best opening track, to be frank. Oddly, the best part of the tune was the slightly incomprehensible chorus. ‘Still Alive’ comes in at a polar opposite to ‘Infernal’, with a fuzzy amalgamation of everything the band has to offer before a cheeky interplay between the two guitars and a solid rolling verse-chorus two hit combo. Still, the song doesn’t have the punch that one can imagine the band intended to give it when they wrote it (addendum: no doubt that it ought to sound better live). It might have been a better idea to push Fuad’s voice to the forefront of the mix, instead of having it drowned out by the guitars.
Of course, it’s understandable why the band wanted ‘Dispensable’ to lead the album. It has everything the previous two tracks needed, and everybody seems to be on top form – just listen to the basswork, extra kicks, and pentatonic leads that ‘Infernal’ and ‘Still Alive’ seemed to be completely devoid of. It’s got the aggression, articulation, technicality, and coherence expected from Kyoto Protocol as we know them. It flows immaculately, and if you just close your eyes you can feel the energy ramp up as the song descends into pure Mad Hatter territory. ‘Monster’s Ball’ too, starts off promisingly, taking the lead from ‘Dispensable’ with a groovy drum and bass-intensive workout with Shan and Shaq holding the reins to the song. Guitar-wise, Fuad and Hairi could have afforded to be more selective with their notes, but the song maintains its place as one of the best off the record.
‘Now You’re Gone’ is a negligible ballad – a filler track at most, along with ‘An Honest Day’s’. The songs bring nothing to the table besides detracting from the momentum that ‘Dispensable’ and ‘Monster’s Ball’ built up. ‘KL I Love You’ on the other hand is an upbeat poppy track with contrasting lyricisms and a cute solo section to boot. ‘I Am Not’ follows through in the same vein, with a brighter edge to it. It’s a noteworthy performance, and something which showcases the band in a much better light, with a more lucid sound and the hard edge that we’ve been yearning for. ‘Forever’ concludes the album in a stereotypical dreamy fashion with collective harmonies – not bad, and certainly much better than ‘Now You’re Gone’, even if there were just too much in it to appreciate the finer details of the melody.
Catch These Men could have been so much more than it is now. The direction is there, but the intensity just isn’t. An increase in production quality, suitable guitar tones, a tighter drum sound (Shan is more than just a capable drummer, but when snares and kicks go astray from the beat as often as they did, they become a nasty distraction), and a superior mix would have pushed this to the next level. All that Catch These Men needed is someone to glue everything together and to push the band to reach their sterling potential – a Rick Rubin figure, if you will.
Hopefully the next release doesn’t take another four years to come out. We’ve got high hopes, and even higher expectations.