Catholic Action – The Mash House

Catholic Action summon a modest but loyal following when they appear at The Mash House in Edinburgh for an inoffensive evening of alternative pop rock. Headed by Chris McCrory, who already has solid credentials as the drummer of Casual Sex, the Glasgow group are specialists in upbeat and energetic rock, interwoven with complex guitar melodies and resonant vocals. They are clearly accomplished and combine well as a foursome, the components of each song melding together seamlessly.
McCrory’s experience as a drummer and producer is evident, as the finesse on show comes with practice. Their repertoire is clear sighted and never ill-judged, including tracks from their forthcoming album as well as lesser known material. The tongue-in-cheek ‘Rita Ora’ effervesces with youthful energy, staccato rhythms alternating with smooth legato melodies, and the polished ‘Doing Well’ is mature and melancholic.
Despite their experience and know-how, Catholic Action never really manage to carve out their own musical niche. Their sound is interesting yet still slightly derivative, never quite separating from the rest of the indie-rock pack. The lack of originality results in an almost monotone feel to their set, with each song blending into the other, all motoring along spiritedly but failing to diverge from one and other. This lends an air of superficiality to their material. Writing this the day after going to see them, I struggle to separate each song from the other, or to recall any standout tunes that could illicit more than a foot-tap. McCrory acknowledges his predilection for ‘shameless pop music’, and cites My Bloody Valentine as a key influence on the band’s style. The problem with shameless pop music is that it’s an incredibly crowded genre, meaning that music that isn’t razor sharp is forgettable. The slightly bland performance also contributed to the luck-lustre audience response, with everyone bar the dedicated fans up at the front nodding along convivially, but never seeming to become truly absorbed with the set.
This was the one element that the group don’t look totally comfortable with: their live performance felt almost mechanical and lacked the fluidity and naturalness that their virtuoso guitar melodies exude in spades. With more depth and daring, Catholic Action could be a real highlight. Their professionalism and musical knowledge is plain to see, as is are their skills and execution. There are glimmers of promise in their inventive melodies and clever juxtaposition of rhythm and texture. However I can’t help but feel that they play it safe, resulting in a spirited but insipid listening experience that lacks variation. Despite these reservations, I’m curious to listen to their forthcoming album, which may explore more varied territory, and build upon their solid foundation. 

Young Perspective Guest Writer – Louis Walsh
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