I’m going to let someone else tell you why Cats on Fire were such a wonderful band.  This appeared in the Guardian newspaper back on 4 May 2012, and was penned by Neil Kulkarni.

“A wet Wednesday night in London, and a handbag is repeatedly hitting us in the face. We don’t care, because we’re dancing – as is the handbagger – to the best pop music being made on the planet right now. The crew responsible for ramming out the steaming Bull and Gate is Finland’s fantastic Cats on Fire, fondly loved in Europe yet virtually unknown in the UK, where they have difficulty even getting their records released.

That’s odd, considering the three albums they’ve given us since 2007 do nothing less than reinject possibilities, politics, wit, erudition and joy into guitar pop. We’re not just here, nose-to-nipple, because we love Cats on Fire, or because they also happen to be the best-looking band on Earth. We’re here because 2007’s The Province Complains contained I Am the White Mantled King, one of the greatest songs of this millennium; because 2009’s Our Temperance Movement was the most pristinely perfect pop album seemingly no one but us ever heard; because this year’s All Blackshirts to Me is, impossibly, even better. Cats on Fire are sleeping on someone’s floor tonight. By rights, it should be the Queen’s; by rights, as everyone here knows, they should be stars.

“I don’t love music more than anything else,” admits the lead singer and songwriter Mattias Bjorkas, “which means I haven’t been blinded by the love of music. And I have certainly not been blinded by money. I was a very straight-edge, socialist youth – Cats on Fire has been my lesson in frustration and dealing with second-bests sometimes, but we try to always make the music move on and matter.

The five-piece has come together in fits and starts from the small, isolated town of Vaasa, sharpening and solidifying their magic every step of the way. “No music industry tentacles were long enough to reach as far up north as we were in Vaasa,” Bkorkas says. “But trying to be loved was always my main preoccupation, whatever political or musical ideas I may have presented as the true spirit of Cats on Fire. I nurtured the idea of a small, provincial army that was musically righteous and ready to strike against the trendy, metropolitan hypocrisy.”

They make songs you can’t shake and write lyrics that stop your day in its tracks, the sound exquisitely puckered throughout by Ville Hopponen‘s addictive licks, Iiris Viljanen‘s poptastic keyboards, and the band’s sheer stealth and grace. The last time you felt this way about indie-pop was Pulp. Yeah – that good. Judging by tonight’s rapturous reception, it’s only their own shyness that’s stopping Cats on Fire becoming major stars.

“In big cities,” Bjorkas says, “we observe all the other groups of four or five people with good haircuts, unable to shake the worst thought of all – that each of these 10,000 bands had an idea as valid as our own.”

They don’t. Not by a long chalk. All Blackshirts To Me is European album of the year. Avail yourselves immediately.”

Sadly, it would be the last album the band would release. Across the three LPs and various singles and EPs (many of which were collated on the compilation Dealing In Antiques, released in 2010), there are more than 50 songs from which to narrow things down to as perfect an ICA as I can deliver. It’s 12 songs long, on the grounds that it deserves to be.

Side A

1. Horoscope (track 1 on Our Temperance Movement, 2009)

2. My Friend In A Comfortable Chair (single, 2007 and track 8 on Dealing In Antiques, 2010)

3. The Smell Of An Artist (from Draw In The Reins EP, 2006 and track 14 on Dealing In Antiques)

4. Draw In The Reins (re-recorded version – track 11 on The Province Complains 2007)

5. 1914 and Beyond (track 7 on All Blackshirts To Me, 2012)

6. Tears In Your Cup (track 6 on Our Temperance Movement, 2009)

Side B

1. I Am The White-Mantled King (track 1 on The Province Complains, 2007)

2. My Sense Of Pride (track 2 on All Blackshirts To Me, 2012)

3. Letters From A Voyage To Sweden (track 3 on Our Temperance Movement, 2009)

4. Higher Grounds (track 3 on The Province Complains, 2007)

5. Our Old Centre Back (track 1 on All Blackshirts To Me, 2012)

6. The Borders Of This Land (track 8 on Our Temperance Movement, 2009)




Last week saw much of the UK bask in warm, glorious sunshine and record temperatures. Here in Glasgow it wasn’t quite like that although it seemed pleasant enough and the dry spell was very welcome after what had been a largely damp, dreich and often cold May and June.

The thing is, I didn’t notice it all that much as the good weather coincided with a great deal of sadness in as much as I was at two funerals in the space of 48 hours. The first of them was for a talented young man in his early 20s who was killed in a road accident and the second was for a wonderful lady who wasn’t that far off her 100th birthday but whose latter years were ruined by the onset of various illnesses including dementia.

All the while, the world was coming to terms with the latest of what are increasingly scary terrorist attacks in Tunisia just as we are getting our heads around the horror of the attack on a black church by an extremist in South Carolina in the USA.

I don’t know how the rest of you cope with trauma and adversity but you won’t be surprised to learn that I try to do so through music. And this past few days instead of relying on the shuffle feature of the iPod as I normally do when I’m on my way to work I’ve found myself searching out songs that make me smile and which can form a perfect soundtrack to a normal summer. Here’s four that have stood out:-

mp3 : The Sundays – Summertime

Harriet Wheeler and the boys have made more important and indeed essential indietracks but this single from 1997 is a real standout for me partly as it is a perfect love song but mainly because it is so full of warmth and vitality that it is impossible not to smile and sigh as you listen.

mp3 : The Magic Numbers – Forever Lost

A hit single from the summer of 2005. It doesn’t seem as if was as long as ten years ago. A bittersweet break-up song clothed in a ridiculously upbeat and zestful tune. The Magic Numbers never bettered this, their debut single.

mp3 : Teenage Fanclub – Sparky’s Dream

No way is this 20 years old. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyy.

I’ve said before that I can be a bit ambivalent about Teenage Fanclub but the thing is, when they’re good, they tend to be exceptionally good. It’s impossible to listen to this and not do a wee imaginary dance in your head as you stare at your fellow commuters.

mp3 : Cats On Fire – I Am The White-Mantled King

I don’t know all that much about pop music and Finland. But I do know that Cats On Fire have been doing tremendous things for well over a decade now and ought to be better known and more appreciated than they are. If they are new to you, then you could do worse than head over to somewhere like youtube and watch some of their wonderful promo videos. This is the opening track to the 2007 LP The Province Complains, a record that every fan of intelligently crafted indie pop should own.

Coming up tomorrow…..something else that cheered me up in the middle of last week.




To listen to Cats On Fire is to step back in time to an era when my jeans had a waist size in the high 20s and my t-shirt labels didn’t feature the letter L far less one or more or the letter X.

But to simply suggest that Cats on Fire are a pastiche of the fabulous jingly-jangly guitar pop of the 80s would be doing them a huge disservice. Yes, they take the very best bits of bands like The Smiths, The Go Betweens, Felt along with others who emerged from C86 movement but somehow they also sprinkle their own fairy dust to the sound and deliver something that is incredibly fresh, important and special. It is prime indie music influenced by the prime indie music era. Cats on Fire make a noise that is magical, exciting. melodic, joyous, infectious and incredibly danceable. I close my eyes and once again I’m wearing skinny jeans, hipster trainers and a t-shirt that sits flat over my stomach.

I have no idea why the world has singularly failed to take notice of this wonderful band nor why the world’s media don’t hang on every utterance from lead singer and main songwriter Matthias Bjorkas who is one of those ridiculously intelligent, charming, talented and good-looking musicians that boys and girls fall in love with in equal measures.  He should be the 21st Century equivalent of Moz or Jarvis and yet he’s barely known even in his home country of Finland or in the neighbouring territories that make up Scandanavia.

The band took their first tentative steps as long ago as 2001 and have gone through some personnel changes over the past 12 years or so.  To begin with it was singles and EPs with the debut LP not appearing until 2007.  All told, there’s been around 60 songs of the highest quality you could ask for :-

mp3 : Cats On Fire – I Am The White-Mantled King

mp3 : Cats On Fire – Letters From A Voyage To Sweden

mp3 : Cats on Fire – 1914 And Beyond

mp3 : Cats On Fire – My Friend In A Comfortable Chair

Taken respectively from The Province Complains (2007), Our Temperance Movement (2009), All Blackshirts To Me (2012) and Dealing In Antiques (2010) – the latter being a compilation that gathers up many of the early singles/EPs that are now almost impossible to find in their original formats. All of these releases really do deserve your attention and can be ordered from a number of places across the internet.  I cannot recommend them highly enough.  Why not ask Santa to bring them to you next month??