The new long player from Native Cats is proof that good things are worth a wait. The bones of the album were recorded well over a year ago – the slinking bass of Julian Teakle and the spare, cracker-snap guest drumming of Sarah Hennies – but the heart of the album lay dormant while songwriter Chloe Escott reordered her life. The singer found herself in a crisis of identity, transitioned, reconfirmed herself, christened a new name and re-approached the album with a renewed confidence and an eye towards gender politics. The subject’s the spark at the heart of John Sharp Toro, but the fire it sets ablaze is Escott’s sharp songwriting, built on the bones of post-punk’s heroes – echoing The Fall, Beat Happening and Au Pairs – but digesting them into something wholly her own.
The genre has often been a fertile ground for progressive ideals, and Escott uses her platform to speak to others struggling with the idea of self and the cultural norms that rise up internally and externally to hinder it. Lyrically Escott returns to themes of “process” time and again, and it’s clear that hers was not a journey taken lightly. To give her journey shape she and Teakle have fashioned a musical organism that’s lean and sinewy but deadly and effective. The aural snake of the music winds its way around Chloe as she sings. It’s almost impossible to divorce Escott’s lyrical sharpness and willingness to peel back the layers and layers of scar tissue from the music’s bone-dry, sonic scalpel approach. If ever there were an example of musical symbiosis at work, it is evident here.
Despite its deeply rooted reliance on bass, the music on John Sharp Toro doesn’t feel conducive to dancing – or rather it’s not an album that dances for others. Instead it feels like an album built for dancing alone, finding the rhythm that moves you and makes you comfortable, letting it slink from the corners of the bedroom to the tips of the fingers. There is darkness in this record, sure, but there is life as well, and ultimately that life wins out, spreading like a sly smile with each repeated listen.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.