Catholic Action – Celebrated by Strangers
At times it feels like a strange fusion of medium and message but it’s a triumph that Catholic Action manage to imbue an increasingly staid format with some revolutionary zeal
It would be fair to say that Celebrated By Strangers, the second album from Glasgow’s Catholic Action, has had a complex gestation, with recordings sessions for the record dating back to at least 2017. While promoting their debut record In Memory Of, singer and guitarist Chris McCrory told the NME that he wanted the follow-up “to change what it means to be in a guitar band” and feature My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields on guitar. This is not that record. After all, the biggest change here isn’t sonic but the frontman’s own decision to confront injustice and let rip.
Musically Catholic Action are still deeply indebted to the sound of classic rockers like Status Quo, The Cars and T. Rex with opener Grange Hell’s noisy intro giving way to two minutes of jittery power-pop and several tracks featuring guitar solos worthy of striking a pose to.
Lyrically though they have pushed on a long way from their debut. Almost every track here has some kind of political message. Lead single One of Us is a noisy masses-against-the-classes throw down with McCrory proclaiming himself 'the welfare son of a welfare son'. It’s a track that the singer describes as “written as a direct response to what I see happening in the UK – a country ravaged by poverty and a disintegrating social fabric of increasingly isolated and intoxicated people.”
Elsewhere from the sprightly indie disco of People Don’t Protest Enough to the closing Four Guitars (For Scottish Independence), McCrory sees the state of the world and decides he’s had enough. While there is a debate to had over whether retro rock is the most progressive or convincing medium with which to sell this message, his commitment and zeal is impressive.
They’ve not forgotten how to write a melody either. Another Name For Loneliness has a swooping vocal and a keyboard line that threatens to resolve into a David Bowie song at any second, while Sign Here is an explosive ballad that seems to address exploitation in the music business.
At times it feels like a strange fusion of medium and message but it’s a triumph that Catholic Action manage to imbue an increasingly staid format with some revolutionary zeal.
Listen to: I’m No Artist