Jaya The Cat – London, Underworld – 5 December 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson   
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 04:00

It might have been a five year wait for a new record by Jaya The Cat, but as far as live shows go they never actually went away. A mainstay of the summer festival circuit (popping up variously at Rebellion and Boomtown over the years) and winter tour circuit, it just wouldn’t feel like a proper Christmas without a trip to see Jaya The Cat. Set up over at the Underworld in Camden (and thusly afforded proximity to all the mulled wines that yours truly can slurp up), the band arrive just a few weeks after their new record ‘A Good Day For The Damned’, offering an infusion of new blood into the band’s setlist.

 

Captain Accident

 

But first up, openers Captain Accident and The Disasters are getting the crowd suitably warmed up, their brand of straight-ahead ska punk slotting in perfectly with the tone of the evening. Playing in a 500 capacity venue in December, it’s fair to say that things really do warm up quite fast for Captain Accident, bodies skanking, pogoing and dancing to ensure it really does feel like the party is in full swing. Intoxicant-inspired tune ‘Business’ is a particularly stand-out moment of the band’s set, it’s catchiness powerfully infectious towards the end of the band’s set.

 

If the room was warming up for Captain Accident, it is positively scorching by the time Jaya The Cat come on, the room going from ‘well-attended’ to ‘sardine’ right before the band hit the stage. Jaya jump straight in with new material with set opener ‘Wine Stained Futon’, the song’s kick-in turning the dancefloor into a heaving sea of moving bodies. Great as it is to see the band playing to a basically sold-out room, it quickly becomes apparent that some members of the crowd fancy themselves as Bez’s to Jaya The Cat’s Happy Mondays, invading the stage to dance, dive and (much to the chagrin of guitarist Karl Smith) get in the way – which is great for the party atmosphere, but much less so for the band who suddenly have to contend with a tiny stage and cameras shoved directly into their equipment while they try to play.

 

Geoff

 

But, ultimately it’s all part of the band’s party vibe – the dancefloor continues to heave as the band play set-staple ‘Rebel Sound’, giving way to a swaying bawl-along for ‘Nobody’s Fault’. Always a band with an ear for great choruses, Jaya have plenty to offer tonight, mixing up old favourites ‘Hello Hangover’, ‘Thank You Reggae’ and ‘Forward’ with new bangers ‘A Rough Guide to the Future’ and ‘Huddersfield’, the whole crowd joining in as much as they possibly can each and every time.

 

If there is one widely disseminated criticism of Ska, it’s that the genre can often lack variety. Not so with Jaya – the band can throw in Euro-dance inspired tunes like ‘Here Come The Drums’ alongside socially-conscious punk anthems like ‘A Rough Guide to the Future’, their sound having constantly evolved for almost two decades. The new songs exhibit the traditional Jaya sense of rhythm and chorus, but offer up a little more aggression than has been heard in the band for some time (harkening back to the likes of ‘God And State’ way back on Basement Style), alongside some of the most dance-happy beats the band have ever played.

 

The truth is, the Jaya The Cat of 2017 are an almost completely different band to even the one that put out ‘More Late Night Transmissions With…’ a decade ago, having changed members numerous times over the course of their career. Yet, the band playing in 2017 still boast the same inherent sense of brilliance that has always typified Jaya The Cat, taking the key elements from past incarnations and giving them fresh energy to put on one of the most diverse sets the band have ever played. The inclusion of ‘Mistake’ elicits an enormous roar of approval, but new hits ‘Sweet Eurotrash’ and ‘Amsterdam’ earn equal amounts of pleasure, the songs having firmly lodged themselves in the brain even though they are (to the audience, at least) less than a year old.

 

Jaya

 

The five year wait for a new Jaya record felt at times almost unbearable, but the wait is most certainly worth it for the sheer electricity they are now able to inject into their sets, closing tune ‘Here Comes The Drums’ serving as a suitable crescendo as Karl is surfed away from the stage, Geoff collapses into a heap and the crowd roar the melodic refrain out into the cold Camden night. It might be December, but Jaya The Cat never fail to bring the summer vibe wherever they go, reminding us with every show that they really are the Cava of punk-reggae bands.

 

A Good Day For The Damned’ is out now via Bomber Music. 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: All photos by the author. © Über Rock.

 

Jaya The Cat play The Art Department in Belfast on Saturday 10 February and Fibber Magee's in Dublin on Sunday 11 February.

 

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