Sunday, September 24, 2006

Catfish Haven

Tell Me
Secretly Canadian

Coming of age in the Midwest during the early ‘90s -- as I did -- progressing through the ranks of Minor Threat and the Misfits, moving onto Fugazi, Sebadoh, Helmet and so on, a band like Catfish Haven would most certainly have been the enemy. The group’s strong sense of rhythm and melody would have stood up to be counted amongst the Jimmy Buffets and Joe Cockers, and summarily dismissed; back then, anyway.

The laid-back, Memphis-style rock of “All I Need is You” paints a picture of mustached dads, wearing white shorts and Hawaiian shirts, sipping Jack Daniels on the rocks and playing games of Snooker in the basement.

Whereas the teenage me would have scoffed and snorted over the gravely, heartfelt croon of “Down by Your Fire” or “Grey Skies,” as a thirty-something this sounds pretty sweet.

There’s no denying that Catfish Haven lays down a groove for adults, and frontman George Hunter definitely knows the craft. But there’s an understated Lou Reed element of loose rhythms in the guitar jangle that drives “Crazy For Leaving.” This sense of amphetamine melancholy adds depth and intricacy to such a straight-forward and stripped down sound. In this relationship that binds Catfish Haven’s uncomplicated songwriting, the group taps into a demanding musical and social milieu. Catfish Haven is not as uptight as the Velvet Underground, but it’s certainly not blue collar rock in the same sense as so many of its references. As result the songs well-up somewhere in between.

--Chad Radford