I like to think Cactus&Cardigan were born out of a frustration that the band members live in a town that is largely ignored by touring bands. Cactus&Cardigan hail from Thurso which is about as far north of Scotland you can go before having to get on a boat. If you’ve ever looked at the sort of cities that bands play when they tour Scotland you’ll often see shows in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. To give you an idea of just how awkward it is to go to a Scottish show if you live in Thurso then you’ll be driving 5 hours to get Glasgow. Yeah, that would annoy the piss out of me too.
So suitably Cactus&Cardigan have released an EP called Highland Bastards and they sound pretty pissed off. Their music can be described as a cross between Reuben’s heavier moments and Hawk Eyes’ Chickenhawk days. Another element that characterises Cactus&Cardigan’s sound is that their lyrics often deal with daft concepts like 80/20s predominate meatball theme. Yes, you read that correctly.
Despite the comedic nature of the lyrics, Cactus&Cardigan make an immensely satisfying racket. The band deal in big riffs and even bigger grooves and conquer their lack of vocal melody thanks to their brilliant song-writing. Screamer and guitarist Peter Bacon has an unnerving knack for writing huge riff after huge riff and it’s bolstered by an amazing performance by drummer Jack Macphee and some seriously thunderous bass-work from Marc Sutherland.
EP highlights come in the form of the title track (which is punctuated by an amazing solo from Bacon) and 80/20 which begins with a hook that reminded us of The Strokes’ Juicebox before unleashing an absolutely crushing riff.
Like Cactus&Cardigan’s previous EP Gag Reflex, the band clearly work well within their comfort zone but Highland Bastards manages to present the listener with 6 very different and very interesting songs. Take Neon Suplex for example; Cactus&Cardigan slow the tempo slightly and strip things back for a spoken introduction before the songs steps into gear. Explosions Implosions starts with an introduction that’s remarkably similar to Holy Mountains by System of a Down before it gives us a riff so terrifyingly massive it wouldn’t sound out of place on a doom release.
Cactus&Cardigan have put together an alternative rock/metal release that is never short on riffs. The songs are all enormous, groove-laden affairs that deserve to be heard outside of the band’s native Scotland. Heavy music needs bands like Cactus&Cardigan to remind us that heavy music doesn’t need to be overly technical to provide a satisfying impact and Highland Bastards is one of the best examples of this mantra we can think of.
Cactus&Cardigan’s Highland Bastards is released independently on May 26th. Keep an eye on the band’s Big Cartel for order links.