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World of Echo

The Cat’s Miaow - Skipping Stones: The Cassette Years ‘92 to ’93

The Cat’s Miaow - Skipping Stones: The Cassette Years ‘92 to ’93

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The Cat’s Miaow return to World Of Echo with Skipping Stones: The Cassette Years ’92-’93, their second compilation for the imprint, and the fourth in a loosely defined series of reissues associated with the group (also including The Shapiros’ Gone By Fall: The Collected Works of The Shapiros and Hydroplane’s Selected Songs 1997-2003). It’s a smart selection of songs by one of Australia’s finest independent pop music groups, whose initial run, across the nineties, was as mysterious as it was bewitching. A generous double album featuring thirty-five songs drawn from The Cat’s Miaow’s history, Skipping Stones lets listeners in on a bunch more secrets.

An even deeper pass through the archives of The Cat’s Miaow, Skipping Stones is a welcome follow-up to 2022’s Songs ’94-’98, which pulled together material from seven-inch singles and compilations. Diving into the four cassettes that the group released over a two-year period, Skipping Stones is full of surprises, rich with unexpected and inspired detours, while reminding everyone just how clear and distinct The Cat’s Miaow’s music was from the very start. Looking in from the outside, they always felt like a group that knew just what they were doing, but intuitive as they are, they weren’t forcing anything: these songs always sound exactly what they need to be, rough edges, playful moments and all.

It's also a fascinating snapshot of one arm of the ‘international pop underground’. While they were clearly listening to music from the US, UK and elsewhere – there are glimpses of Galaxie 500, Spacemen 3, Beat Happening, and The Pastels in some of the songs here – The Cat’s Miaow also feel, consciously or not, part of a continuum of Australian underground pop that takes in The Particles, The Lighthouse Keepers, The Cannanes, The Honeys, Even As We Speak, and The Sugargliders (who they would cover several times). Like those before them, The Cat’s Miaow balanced opposing forces in their music: naivete and knowingness; fragility and strength; worldliness and world-weariness; play and seriousness; heartache and pleasure.

The four cassettes that Skipping Stones draws from – Little Baby Sour Puss, Pet Sounds (both 1992), From My Window, and How Did Everything Get So Fucked Up (both 1993) – were released or assisted by Toytown, a Melbourne cassette label of rare taste, savvy and intelligence, run by Wayne Davidson. Toytown felt like the perfect early home for The Cat’s Miaow, their cassettes rubbing shoulders in the label’s catalogue with brilliant groups like Sukpatch, The Ah Club, Kitty Craft, and Land Of The Loops. The local context is just as important, too, with The Cat’s Miaow sharing their time and creative vision with friends in The Ampersands, Stinky Fire Engine, Girl Of The World, Super Falling Star, Pencil Tin and The Sugargliders. And cassettes were an important form of exchange – cheap, easy to reproduce, not too expensive to send interstate or overseas, they were the most accessible DIY format for any group starting to spread the word about their noise.

All of this is to say, the thirty-five songs here landed in several different contexts, national and international, which goes part-way to explaining the group’s curious cosmopolitanism, the style and spirit in their sound. The Cat’s Miaow may have been bedroom dreamers, but their songs were richly informed, with the sweetest of girl-pop moves sashaying into walls of tremolo-d and distorted guitar, jangling six strings tangling with melodic bass that’s pure Peter Hook/Naomi Yang, while the gentle trickle of a drum machine or the earthy twitch of brushes on drum skins provided the spine for Kerrie’s and Bart’s lovely, unforced singing.

There are a clutch of gorgeous songs here that would reappear in a different form on later releases, classics like “The Phoebe I Know”, “Third Floor Fire Escape View”, “Not Like I Was Doing Anything” and “You Left A Note On The Table”, but plenty of other magic too, all of it finding its way to vinyl for the first time (some tracks appeared on compact disc via the compilations A Kiss and A Cuddle [Bus Stop, 1996] and Songs For Girls to Sing [Drive-In, 1997]). Remarkably, The Cat’s Miaow have also recently released a split single with Rocketship featuring newly recorded material and returned to the stage for their second-ever gig.

But this double LP on World Of Echo feels like the very core of the thing – some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful, effortlessly lush and deeply moving pop music you’re likely to hear.

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