Fantastic Cat – The Very Best of Fantastic Cat

By title alone, you wouldn’t guess that this LP was in fact the alt-country supergroup’s first proper record. Maybe alt-country isn’t quite sufficient – Fantastic Cat sits inside some strange Venn diagram of Elton John, The Eagles, Billy Joel, and a number of 70s and 80s bands I can’t quite place. There’s vintage mystique at play in the vocal processing, guitar riffs, and prominent piano that isn’t frankly common these days.

Fantastic Cat consists of four songwriters, each strong in his own right. You may not recognize the individual names of Anthony D’Amato, Don DiLego, Brian Dunne, and Mike Montali – but you’ll certainly recognize the combination of their talents across these ten songs.

If I had to pick a single starting point for a new listener, it’d be “Nobody’s Coming To Get You”. It’s a dramatic, mid-paced piano rock track that feels like it just barely missed inclusion on the Shrek soundtrack. Lyrically, it deals with disillusionment and adult responsibility. It’s catchy and energetic, transmuting live energy to tape effortlessly. It’s clear to see why it was chosen as a single.

“Wild & Free” follows immediately after and shows a slower, more formless side of the band. There’s a pinch of two of Phil Collins present on this dreamy ballad. The band leverage the sense of emptiness, resulting in a song that’s vulnerable and lethargic.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons to “Call Me Al” when “Amigo” kicks off. There’s a similar carefree spirit and the vocals are processed enough to sound like Paul Simon. Fantastic Cat are some strange sonic time machine, crafting songs that feel decades old without feeling passé.

This is very much by design. Take the band’s video for “Nobody’s Coming To Get You” which looks straight out of a 90s sitcom. Add in cast introductions of the band that add increasingly-distorted spellings of the members’ names and it’s clear the band has a unique personality. Also, “Executive Producer Dick Wolf” is the best way to end the sequence.

Even the video for “C’mon Armageddon”, which prominently revolves around a doomsday cult and features some psychedelic imagery, still sees the band show their playful side.

All this comes from a group young enough to understand the importance of video and humor yet old enough to recognize the allure of the classics.

Perhaps the one major downside to having four songwriters is you’ll prefer some tracks over others. Personally, I gravitated most toward “Nobody’s Coming To Get You”, “Wild & Free”, “Ain’t This The Strangest Town”, and “Lakewood”.

I’m not the biggest fan of classic rock by any stretch, but Fantastic Cat manage to bridge the gap and add youthful vigor into a scene that seems to be dying as fast as its founders. Plenty of genres have seen a resurgence over the years, but we haven’t seen a wide-scale revival of heartfelt, ballad-rock. The Very Best Of Fantastic Cat is the sort of album you can listen to with your dad – he’ll wonder how he missed it growing up, you’ll know better, and both of you will find something to enjoy.

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