“We both like ‘Honey.’”
“Always good to find common interests! What other foods do you both enjoy?”
“We both like ‘Honey,’ the Bobby Goldsboro song.”
“YOU like the Bobby Goldsboro song,” his wife cut in. “I prefer the Dean Martin version.”
The counselor’s eyes flicked to the wall behind the couple, where a clock had been strategically placed to allow her to check the time while maintaining an illusion of eye contact. “Oh no, we’re out of time!” she moaned while pretending to write in their file. “See you next week. And remember your homework: list ten subjects that will cause an argument in the parking lot after your session.”
She waited until the door closed behind them. “And there goes ‘Mrs. Grumpy and Mr. Hopeless.’”
“BINGO!,” the new album by theCatherines, reads like the memoir of one of those people that we pay to feign an interest in our problems. The first three track titles — “You Always Take More Than You Give,” “Why Is It That You Don’t Love Me,” and “How Can I Conquer My Temptation” — represent a veritable Therapist’s Trifecta, topics that will keep a counselor supplied with willing victims for the remainder of this century.
Based in Hamburg, Germany, theCatherines are Heiko Schneider (instruments, vocals, songwriting) and Sandra Ost (vocals). They describe themselves as a JingleJangleFuzzPowerBaroquePop duo.
theCatherines create happy songs that describe the unhappy side of the human condition with such directness as to make one’s preferred syndrome seem humorous. Heiko Schneider’s anti-Dylanist approach to lyrics involves a minimum of subterfuge. “5 Ways To Get You Out Of The Great Depression” is not a picture-within-a-picture of a Dust Bowl farmer faced with an impending foreclosure. It is, as far as I can tell, advice on how to relieve depression. And here we interject an Or is it…? in case it really is about a Dust Bowl farmer and we’re just not smart enough to figure it out.
theCatherines have always been known for their jangles, and “BINGO!” has no shortage of jangly guitars. But there’s changes a-stirring. theCaths are rocking harder than on previous releases. “You Always Take More Than You Give” opens with slashing power pop guitars. “How Can I Conquer My Temptation” dials in extra pop without loss of power. “I’ll Drift Into The Night” leaps from the gate and charges into the Southern California twilight trailing a cloud of beautiful harmonies.
An especial revelation are the tracks featuring horn arrangements: “Why Is It That You Don’t Love Me,” “Two Is A Party But One Is Okay,” and “Mrs. Grumpy And Mr. Hopeless.” Though no one is actually blowing a horn, the parts are incredibly realistic and well-written. The arrangements have ready antecedents in the horn bands of the late 60’s, yet retain the classic feel of those arrangers who so effortlessly “sweetened” the basic backing and vocal tracks of one million pop and country recordings.
“Heart Collector” is what transpires when the cardigan-wearing fans of the Association and the Mommas and the Poppas go off to college, then come home wearing caftans and move a multi-track mixing board into the garage to record their new psychedelic rock band. “People Take Selfies Of Each Other,” the final track on “BINGO!,” feels like the first track on theCatherines’ next album. The song has a mystical aura, speaks of “the altar of your helplessness,” and features a jazzy guitar solo that hints at an unseen polychromatic palette in theCath’s bag of brushes.
“BINGO!” is a moment of self-actualization for theCatherines, the release in which they step from What group does this song sound like? to This is what we sound like. And while most of the songs have a vaguely retro vibe, the main sensation is of forward movement. Sometimes jangly, sometimes happy, sometimes happily unhappy forward movement.