Chris Catalyst – ‘Life is Often Brilliant’ (Wrath Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Thursday, 04 May 2017 04:00

Chris Catalyst - Life artContrary to the claim made in this album’s title, Life can be Decidedly Not Brilliant at times. This is something that Mr. Catalyst is all-too-well aware of, with the past 12 months throwing up several trials and tribulations for him to overcome (chronicled in a brilliantly candid blog). This is also something I am all too aware of, as it explains why I sit here writing this over a month from the album’s release (despite having a physical copy since mid-Feb), following a loss of job, laptop and (for a good while) work ethic.


What’s that got to do with reviewing an album, I hear you ask? Well, everything actually. Music is one of the most universally sought forms of healing, helping most of us through some of the toughest times in our lives, as well as acting as a constant companion through the good times. This spirit of enduring companionship is what fuels ‘Life is Often Brilliant’, an album which takes all that life can throw at you and churns it into brilliantly sunny rock-via-britpop anthems.


Flexing his typically brilliant lyrical muscles, Chris kicks the album off with the line “I’m getting my No Regrets tattoo lasered off”. It’s a strong hint of what’s to come – witty and wry lyrics married to massive guitar-god style riffs that would come off as ostentatious if it weren’t for the enduring likability and everyman quality of Mr. Catalyst himself.


In fact, Chris seems to have drawn from many an influence to put together this album. While at a glance it contains the same sugar-sweet pop rock sensibilities of his main act Eureka Machines, this solo effort is decidedly heavier on the pop scale throwing up whiffs of Oasis, Beatles, David Bowie and all your other favourite British music icons.


Strapped into some big stomping boots, single ‘Same Old Sun’ is anthemic as any tune you’ve heard this past two decades, bolstered with a sense of the grandiose as it pulls in some brass instruments to elevate the single to the stratosphere. Compare this to the frenetic Madness-via-Cardiacs pacing of ‘Cracking Up’ and you start to get a picture for just how versatile this record is, as it pulls out some more esoteric alternative influences.



Thematically, the album’s lead idea is perfectly surmised on the track ‘Yeah (Oh No)’, with the choral refrain “I tell myself/it’s just a phase/I make a ‘Yes’ from an ‘Oh No’” serving as the perfect mission statement for taking negativity and twisting it into something positive. It doesn’t hurt none that the track itself alternates between Gary Numan/Devo style jerky verses into a prime-brit rock era chorus that embeds itself deeply in the brain.


It’s not all upbeat sing-alongs though. An artist with plenty of nuance, Chris explores his balladic side on the second half of the album. ‘How Do You Sleep’ introduces a sense of dissatisfaction, with a Beach Boys undertone that hints at a restless subterranean landscape beneath the pop-rock exterior. Followed by the minimalistic ‘Distance Over Time’, we enter more serious (but no less addictive) territories from track six onwards.


Chris is no stranger to creating wonderfully fuzzy love songs and the decidedly ‘Heroes’ vibe of ‘I Hope We Always Stay The Same’ acts as a slow dance, a cuddle and heart-break in a song all at once, such is its wistful loveliness. We don’t get to dwell in ballad country too long though; ‘Sticks and Stones’ picks things back up with another superb power pop banger, the huge chorus cementing this song’s status as lead single for the album.



With one last big ballad before the album closes, Chris offers up the beautifully cathartic ‘You Die at the End’. A song which says all it needs to on the tin, the song is nonetheless wonderfully paced to touch that sense of loss that we feel for both loved ones and favourite artists, especially with the line “God, I miss David Bowie/He was my paperweight/When he went back to Mars/Man, I swear that the stars looked different that day”. If you can hear that track and not get even the slightest bit misty-eyed, you’re a stronger man than I.


After such a colossal ballad, the only thing that could bring the album to a fitting close would be a final, minimalist expression. With just Chris’s vocals and a piano to guide us through, ‘Able Seamen’ is a final expression of talent which brings Life Is Often Brilliant to a fitting close. Featuring another perfect Catalyst-ism “Swimming against the stream of my own self-esteem”, the album comes full circle for one last enormous swell of instrumentation.


Beautifully constructed and played with genuine heart and passion, Life Is Often Brilliant proves that Chris Catalyst is a genuine treasure of the music world, an undeniable talent with a knack for penning perfectly relatable anthems. Be it ballad or big rocker with a pop heart on its sleeve, Catalyst smashes it out the park with gusto, evoking the memories of some of the great forerunners that came before him as he goes. Apart from the artist, Life Is Often Brilliant is also the perfect cathartic record, an album which is equal parts pick-me-up and party-starter. Life might often be brilliant, but Chris Catalyst always is.


‘Life Is Often Brilliant’ is out now. You can buy your copy HERE.


All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.