Catholic Action put on a “master class in stomping, charged and expertly polished pop-rock” at Birmingham’s Sunflower Lounge

Whilst they might sound like some sort of dated religious group, Glaswegian indie-rock quartet Catholic Action, tipped by DIY and NME as “ones to watch in 2017” have been making huge strides in the UK scene, you never know, they could be your new favourite band. Born out of a teeming underground scene that has produced some of Scotland’s finest alternative bands, from Honeyblood to Frightened Rabbit, Catholic Action bring an audacious splash of ‘70s glam-rock to their disco-tinged post-punk, creating a sound that falls somewhere between Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes.

Following the release of their brilliantly outlandish and witty lead single ‘Rita Ora’, Catholic Action are back in… erm, action in 2017, sharing clap-along new single ‘Doing Well’, before taking their boisterous live show on the road this February, with nights in Reading, Southampton, Cambridge and more, as well as an intimate performance at the now renowned Roundhouse Rising Festival. A late change of plans, and a spot of spontaneous thinking meant I was able to catch the four-piece at Birmingham’s Sunflower Lounge, where, despite the modest crowd, Catholic Action put on a master class in delivering stomping, charged and expertly polished pop-rock.

Always enthusiastic to give up and coming artists a chance in the spotlight, I arrived at the venue painfully early, however both supports comfortingly showcased the fading importance and diversity of ‘B-Town’, Birmingham’s indie scene. Stepping in for The Americas on the warm-up bill, the sharp beach-wave tones of local four-piece Summer Loving Torture Party or SLTP to make it all a bit easier (Coincidently it’s an anagram for The Last Shadow Puppets, a fact that vocalist Connor Christie is keen to point out), show serious promise, evoking the likes of The Strokes, and Arctic Monkeys, circa‘ Favourite Worst Nightmare’. With a handful of songs, brimming with rolling surf-rock melodies, and with the backing of local promoters and BBC Introducing in the West Midlands, keep an eye (or an ear) out for these boys.

A world away, psych-rock trio Handwaxx revel in propulsive and hypnotic guitar effects, dashed with a generous helping of danceable indie-pop. Perhaps this is how Kasabian’s would sound if they ditched the ballsy “lad-culture” for a stint on the pedalboard. Soundcloud singles ‘How I Feel’ and ‘Desire’ see the trio engage hypnotically in their own intense psychedelia, however there is a familiar streak of charismatic Britpop here, equally influenced by The Verve, Supergrass and Shed Seven as by ‘70s psych-rock. They play with such ferocity that the drummer has to re-assemble his drum kit after every song to prevent it crashing over the stage.

There are no gimmicks here tonight, no fancy stage setup or anxious buildups, there isn’t even a barrier between the crowd and the stage. Catholic Action have been restlessly milling around most of the evening, sipping their beers tentatively. Now they just seem to materialize onto the cramped stage after slinking their way through the now swelling, but still worryingly small crowd, sparing no time before crashing into latest single, ‘Doing Well’. The song bristles with live energy, powered by tightly wound slashes of angular garage guitar and snappy vocal hooks. I’d struggle to find a catchier chorus this year.

Enviously long-locked front man Chris McCrory, guitarist/vocalist/producer/director and drummer extraordinaire (of fellow Glasgow outfit, Casual Sex), immediately proves his worth as a brilliantly bold leader; he isn’t easily thrown off by the meager audience before him, and continues to eyeball every individual almost uncomfortably throughout the performance.

“We are from the free European state of Scotland” he proudly declares, before performing a thundering duo of unreleased songs, ‘New Years’ and ‘Propaganda’ taken from their forthcoming “first album” slated for release later this year. The term “first album” isn’t used lightly tonight. In fact, if you read around you’ll find out that Catholic Action have finished recording their debut record, set for release on their newly signed label, Modernsky and are busy holed up in their rehearsal space writing for album 2! Steady on lads.

The familiarly playful and reflective tumble of ‘The Wash’ is perhaps one of the only subdued moments in Catholic Action’s power-charged rock’n’roll performance, however high points come in the form of the loping slacker-rock charge of recent B-side ‘Breakfast’, and, of course, its bouncy celebrity endorsed counterpart, ‘Rita Ora’ alongside the expansive riff-laden ‘Stars and Stripes’. Closing their short-but-sweet headline set with debut single ‘L.U.V’, a two-minute rollick of neat glam-rock guitar lines that echo the bygone age of ‘70s rock, the foursome disappear almost as instantaneously as they appeared.

Support slots with the likes of Swim Deep, Teenage Fanclub, Cage the Elephant and even Glasgow dance-rock stars Franz Ferdinand themselves at Glasgow’s renowned Barrowland Ballroom are just another notch on Catholic Action’s bucket list, and what with their dizzying trajectory and tonight’s effortlessly slick performance you’d expect from a band twice their maturity, I can see this band hitting the sought after heights of ‘indie stardom’ far sooner than you think. You can listen to Catholic Action’s latest single ‘Doing Well’ on Soundcloud beneath make sure to catch these boys very soon on their headline tour before they blow up, you won’t regret it! Find all remaining dates below:

Catholic Action played:

  • Doing Well
  • New Years
  • Propaganda
  • Breakfast
  • The Wash
  • Black & White
  • Rita Ora
  • The Real World
  • Stars and Stripes
  • L.U.V

Catholic Action, February 2017 (remaining) tour dates:

15th February, Southampton, The Joiners

16th February, St.  Albans, The Horn

17th February, Bedford, Esquires

18th February, Cambridge,  The Portland Arms

20th February, Leicester, The Firebug

22nd February, Dundee, Bar 15

23rd February, Inverness, The Tooth & Claw

24th February, Aberdeen, Cafe Drummond

25th February, Edinburgh, The Mash House

Tickets are available from See, Dice and other agencies.

Words by Joe Bulger

Featured image, ‘Catholic Action at Roundhouse Rising Festival 2017’ , courtesy of Emma Swann for DIY Magazine


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