Alpha Cat – “Venus Smile… Retrograde” – a broken heart shows you what you’re made of…

The overwhelming theme of Alpha Cat’s “Venus Smile… Retrograde” is about how it is a broken heart that shows you what you’re made of. It is also a reflection of Elizabeth McCullough’s observation that the world has become too divided, too extreme, and also an overwhelming exhaustion that seeks, particularly in the song “Orbit (Rx)” a hopeful resolution and reconnection of these separations, and ultimately, hopefully, redemption.

This record’s musicians include: Elizabeth McCullough, singer, songwriter and acoustic guitar, geniuses guitarist Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams, John Mayer) and bassist Reggie McBride (From Stevie Wonder and Parliament Funkadelic, to Elton John,) the brilliant drummer Jason Harrison Smith, Manuel Quintana on percussion, Jane Scarpantoni on cello (REM, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc.) and Murphy Bug on backing vocals and additional guitar and bass.

Alpha Cat started as a band, and morphed into a collective. In the mid-90’s Elizabeth McCullough, a photographer who had begun writing songs on her own, ran into some old acquaintances. One was James Mastro, whom she had photographed while he was in the Bongos. She asked if he would listen to some of her 4-track demos. He happened to be in the market for pix for his new project the Health & Happiness Show, which at that time included former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. McCullough and Lloyd got to talking, and Lloyd agreed to play on the first studio demo of McCullough’s songs. The Mastro connection also led to a friendship with Television bassist Fred Smith, who agreed to produce a new demo, and ended up co-producing two Alpha Cat CDs.

The Waitresses Chris Butler, who is known for such 80’s dark-happy hits as I Know What Boys Like and Christmas Wrapping, wrote a review of an early London show for Britain’s “Get Rhythm” magazine. In it he described Alpha Cat’s work as “funny, intense and surprisingly beautiful, ‘how the fuck do you steer this thing called life’, songs.” How much truer now than then.


Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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