Having been online bloggers favourites for a good few years now, it's taken London-based collective Cats And Cats And Cats three years to finally get their debut long player in the few remaining record stores up and down the land. Sure, some of you may remember the split album they released with This Town Needs Guns way back when, and while that gave more than a subtle hint of their promise, it would be fair to say that the post-rock orientated Cats and Cats and Cats of yore is an entirely different proposition to the highly elaborate, orchestral arrangement dominated one on 'If I'd Had An Atlas'.
While there's no denying Cats x 3 being a thoroughly riveting experience in the flesh, its that difficulty in transposing their undoubted talents onto tape, or more importantly putting together a collection of songs that works in the confines of someone's living room rather than the sweaty back room of an intimate live music venue. Across its eleven pieces, 'If I'd Had An Atlas' certainly can't be found lacking in ambition, and if anything, the complexity of those arrangements are triumphs for dexterity in themselves.
However, what Cats x 3 struggle to muster at times is any semblance of a memorable tune, this despite crafting what could be described as a concept album in many ways, particularly the way each song moulds itself into the next one ad infinitum. For all his deft writing skills, vocalist Ben George can sometimes grate a little, pitching himself somewhere between Gareth from Los Campesinos! and Adam Woolway from The Strange Death Of Liberal England without quite matching either.
That said, there are moments of sheer exquisite bliss here that any prospective musician of the future would be well advised to hear. The operatic 'Little Blimps' and militaristic swagger of 'If I Were A Wolf' both recall Youthmovies at their finest, while the cataclysmic war cry of 'Big Blue' - George repeatedly imploring "This is a battle!" over a rising tidal wave of guitar squall and feedback - takes 'If I'd Had An Atlas' decibel count to the next level, intentionally or otherwise.
Occasionally there is a tendency for self-indulgence to take over - understandable maybe for such a classically trained outfit - and the likes of 'The Boy With The Beak', overstretched to a colossal seven minutes, and 'Suizokukanni' suffer as a result.
Nevertheless, 'If I'd Had An Atlas' is a well-formed opening salvo and judging by the recent departure of two key band members, could well serve as a fitting epitaph to boot.