Alpha Cat

REVIEW: Alpha Cat “Venus Smile”


Alpha Cat – Venus Smile – EP

I’m familiar with this compelling artist that drives this band & teeters on the edge of being a more folky-roots-oriented Patti Smith. While Elizabeth McCullough isn’t as intense, punky, or Beat Generation-tinted as dear Patti she has that carefree punk devil-may-care tonality in her vocal that’s captivating. She just needs a little more lyrical bite if she wants to slide into a Smith’s passenger seat. But that’s her choice.

Her new 21-minute CD performed as Alpha Cat was produced by Elizabeth (lead singer/acoustic guitar/writer). The 5-cut EP Venus Smile (Drops June 24–Aquamarine Records) features a few interesting pieces. The title cut is a double-dose of that attitude singing & it works well for Ms. McCullough. Her band has survived a rough patch. The first inception broke up, but the name remained active & Elizabeth reconvened.

Alpha Cat

The guitars are jangly with a barbed-wire edge similar to the approach Tom Verlaine’s Television often employed. Elizabeth this addresses her frustration with all the anger & division in society, the possible healing of separations & her own optimism – that she’s still holding to. “Orbit,” has a Heather Nova-vocal element with Nova’s intensity but Elizabeth always vocalizes well between an at times chaotic melody. The guitars & effects don’t simply play they seem to scamper around a midnight kitchen when the lights go on & cockroaches scatter in the sink every which way with their stinging guitar notes. Quite exhilarating.

Elizabeth’s voice has an individuality immersed in the seriousness of her material. It can be delicate, precise & clever but her vocal color gives the lyric sustenance. This CD looks like humor & novelty – but it isn’t.

The musicians punctuate like Patti Smith’s band always has. Nothing is mundane, it’s all woven tight as she builds on her melody. “All In Your Head,” has assertive vocal phrasing similar to the better Debbie Harry songs, the less pop-oriented ones.

Ms. McCullough keeps her showcase vital to the end as when she started. She tangos around controversy but I prefer she keep her music vague & not jeopardize a paying audience demographic. I’m not entirely certain Elizabeth has yet comfortably found her niche to create a signature sound & image conveyed by her music. But it’s there. She does capture quite well what few artists do – she keeps it interesting.

Musicians joining Elizabeth are Doug Pettibone (acoustic guitar & other guitars), Angela Babin (electric guitar), Manuel Quintana (percussion), Reggie McBride (bass) & Jane Scarpantoni (cello), Rich Feridun (pedal steel guitar) & Jason Harrison Smith (drums).

Photo by John Gentile. CD @

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