The Multiple Cat
The Secret of the Secret of
coyly titled retrospective of the Multiple Cat’s mid-90s full-length releases, The Secret of the Secret of, is a gift to ignorant children of the 80s, longstanding fans, and anyone who blushes at the name Tapes ‘n Tapes. It allows us, in our disparate states of indie asphyxiation, to hear this cheerful, moving, ever changing cast of baldly skilled musicians. With decent microphones and mid-range recording setups spanning years and hundreds of miles, it’s a kind of ten-year-long rehearsal set, bearing the secrets of their innocently derivative and delightfully original discography.
The atmosphere of an album like Terror Twilight meanders from smoked-stuffed stratosphere to beer-tainted basement, and Building Something Out of Nothing, from the rooftop overlooking an ugly city to the hickory-laced winter air of a tire-strewn rural backyard. The Multiple Cat’s catalogue, summed up in 16 tracks here, nearly matches the sensual versatility of such albums. These mental landscapes are unveiled like a fine author develops a character: track after track, chapter after chapter, with carefully metered energy. They gnaw on their own ideas, staring them down in a manner that is unabashedly youthful, proudly candid, and curious.
“Contact” is easily one of the least heard and most gut wrenching episodes of soft, sentimental garage rock, and a clear indicator of this band’s context. The 90s weren’t all that long ago, but in indie rock terms, it’s been light years. The song consists of a slow two-beat rhythm that comes at the ear from a distance, forcing inebriation over its five minutes through an incredibly sensuous and sad lyrical delivery. Simple guitar brushes play over skittering drums; a synthesizer cuts in and out with a four-note sequence; trumpets swoop down for the combustive, garbled passion of the chorus.
Despite the scattershot ordering, “The Nebula” and “Rods and Apples,” both from 1998’s Elements Of, are placed consecutively now as they were then. “The Nebula” is both bubbly and coarse, Pixies-like in its dogged, precise noisemaking and its yawning, soft alto vocals. As on the other tracks, the synths play off the loyal structure of the drums and bass, circling around that structure as the guitar plays quietly between them and the vocals order everybody around.
“Rods and Apples” brings in a string trio that in words seems odd, but creates an urgency perfectly placed in the bullying mix of guitars and percussion. At the end of each verse is the rhythmic fallout typical of this genre: the speed slows, the instruments collide, and the chorus is languorous and resigned, yet ardently so. “Love Leave” and “Savior in a Plaid Coat” are thoughtfully laid out and epic, decorating a familiar format with slouching rhythms, keyboard sections, peddling syncopation, and even a little punchy reverb and twinkling Smithsy guitars. “Savior” is the climax of the album: a relaxed endcap for an era long gone, but one that speaks to sentiments that can still be experienced firsthand. Such is the pleasure of an LP; it’s the worthiest form of nostalgia there is.