KATZ - THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN EP
KATZ - The Last American Virgin
Sour Grapes Records
baby pink shell cassette (limited to 50)
The recent boom of nostalgia-ridden music in Manchester has been a really interesting one to follow. The collision of modern DIY mentalities with the adoration of decades gone by, the new blood is lacing their tunes with devout idolism to the greats of the past. KATZ are probably the best example of this, as shown on their scratchy lo-fi surf debut Dumb Songs. On follow-up The Last American Virgin, they've developed their signature sound even further. Recorded on a Tascam 244 Cassette recorder and then mixed, mastered and packaged by KATZ themselves in the attic bedroom of their shared student house in Manchester, it's pure unadulterated DIY goodness.
Whereas Dumb Songs felt like a tribute to the beauty of Daniel Johnston's work in the early 80s, The Last American Virgin is a straight-up love letter to cinema, written after the trio had delved into hours of films. This resulted in each track relating to different films; in some cases, they're condensing the plots, and in other cases, they put themselves in the shoes of a character. Influenced by the 2017 film of the same name, opener "Lady Bird" is short and stout but punchy, with its Adam and the Ants-style drum intro and biting jangly guitar, it sets a high bar for the rest of the EP. Fortunately, "1985" is executed brilliantly, this time putting the listener in the mind of Marty McFly from Back To The Future, giving the perky and slightly nerdy icon a melancholic edge that somehow retroactively fleshes out a character from 35 years ago. Vocalist Ben Williams gives a properly emotional vocal performance here without giving it too much beans, soaring along the noodling chorus-drenched guitar and machine-like drums. "Fast Times" quite rightly marks the point of the record hits high energy, more reminiscent of 90s indie than the rest of the tracklist. Nevertheless, it's a pretty solid effort, with more focus on the guitar work along with the lyricism influenced by Fast Times At Ridgemont High, a love song caked with hope. The speed continues on into my favourite track here, "Dead Is Better", an incredible punky number inspired by Pet Sematary. Once again, the lyrics have themes of its counterpart film influence, but this time, it lends itself perfectly alongside the instrumentation. Even with the lo-fi production, it feels crushing whilst giving off an optimistic stench, reminiscent of late 70s pop-punk, with Williams howling the simple yet infectious chorus consisting simply of "I'm dead". It's an absolute standout song. Title track "The Last American Virgin" is the closer for the EP, but is also the most ambitious track, by far the longest tune. Probably the most obscure pointer of reference out of all of the movies, the influence of its namesake cult feature film parallels tightly with the dreamy composition and Williams' heart-wrenching vocals. The extended music breaks are a brilliant addition to the song, but can stand tall amongst KATZ's usually shorter numbers. It closes out a brilliant EP, packed with the cleverly written music and DIY charm that soaks everything the band has released thus far.
As for the cassette, this is obviously the perfect format to listen to the EP. Sure, listening to it on Spotify through a set of powerful headphones or a hi-fi system opens music up, but The Last American Virgin lends itself gorgeously to a personal cassette player or an older car stereo, a true soundtrack to the 80s. KATZ are an impressive band in a sea of similar artists following a DIY ethos, separating themselves from being grouped in with an intriguing surf-punk sound that's been perfectly nurtured to be sonically tremendous.
FFO: Bass Drum Of Death, Descendents, Daniel Johnston