Edinburgh Review: Dead Cat Bounce – Caged Heat
I want to like Irish supergroup Dead Cat Bounce. They’re comedy. They’re rock. Short of handing out free food, they’re everything I want in a live performance. But something doesn’t click and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
At first I think it’s the numbers. I grew up with musical comedy trios – Doug Anthony All Stars, Tripod, and Axis of Awesome. There’s an easy comedy formula with a trio. You have a frontman, a musical talent, and a fall guy. Sure, the roles often shuffle around in a show, but the balance is always there. Dead Cat Bounce are a quartet, and comically, it feels like there’s one leg too many.
The banter between guitarist James Walmsley, drummer Demian Fox, and bassist Shane O’Brien is superb and they sit comfortably in their comedic roles. Unfortunately, keyboardist Mick Cullinan seems to fade into the wings a little too often. The group need to actively shape a fourth persona; otherwise Mick will be dismissed as a session musician.
Musically, Dead Cat Bounce are on solid ground. Part way through the show the members swap their instruments around, showing off their musical talent. Well, apart from Shane: “It’s not that I can’t learn another instrument; I just couldn’t cheat on my bass.”
But their musical prowess leads to another problem: Dead Cat Bounce rock too hard. I’m sure the goal is to play over the top, but it’s a tactic that doesn’t quite work in today’s music climate. There are so many serious bands playing homage to cock rock groups of the 70s and 80s that tight pants and histrionic guitar solos are pretty standard. When Dead Cat Bounce perform straight, I have to remind myself that I’m watching a comedy show, not Top of the Pops.
Fortunately, this doesn’t happen with every song. Their softer tracks like Rugby and Christians in Love are punctuated with witty dialogue and other cues for laughter. I’d like to see more of these songs, but the set list seems to be split 50/50: rock songs with amusing lyrics and comedy songs with catchy tunes.
Interestingly, an ongoing theme of the show is the bands identity. Are they an internationally touring concept band or a moderately successful novelty act? The group come to a consensus by the closing song, but I’m not sure I agree. Until Dead Cat Bounce play down either their music or their comedy, they’ll continue to straddle the awkward border of musical comedy.
Dead Cat Bounce – Caged Heat will be at Pleasance One nightly at 10:30pm until August 28.