Review Summary: Cinema may not contain The Cat Empire's finest work - in fact, none of these songs could be considered their best - but overall, Cinema is their most cohesive and flowing work to date.
To any who haven't heard of The Cat Empire, they are a six-piece band from Melbourne, Australia, and the only way to describe them is ecletic. They rarely, if ever, use electric guitars, instead relying on keyboards and trumpets to bring the main beat, while the drummer, bassist and vocalist/percussionist keep the rhythm section tight. They are also well known for their use of two vocalists - the aforementioned percussionist Felix Reibl, with a voice as smooth and adaptable as velvet, and trumpeteer and far superior vocalist Harry James Angus, who possesses one of the most unique voices ever plus a shetload of talent on the trumpet. But enough of the band, and onto the album.
Cinema is the fifth album by this band, and is certainly a departure from previous releases. While the first four albums definitely contained some of their best songs, they also came with a lot of dull filler. Cinema, on the other hand, is very consistent. While nothing here could be consided the sixpiece's best music, there is also no filler to be found, once the album has been given a couple of chances.
Like previous Cat Empire records, Cinema contains a variety of genres and instruments to keep things fresh. Ollie McGill, on the keyboards, has possibly his best turn here, especially on songs like "All Hell" and "Shoulders", where he is relied on to keep the main beat. Drummer Will Hull-Brown also gives a stellar performance here, especially considered the large absence of Felix's percussion.
However it's not all good news. Harry James Angus, easily the most talented member of the band, barely makes an appearance. Almost no songs contain his amazing trumpet work, and his vocals are only heard on "Feeling's Gone" (which he shares with Felix, a reliable formula), "Only Light", "The Heart Is A Cannibal" and closer "Beyond All" - four songs out of eleven. Not nearly enough. Riebl gives his usual funky vocals to fit with the rhythm of the music on the other seven, but they're no match for Harry's much-missed wail.
So here one would usually talk about high points and low points song-wise, but you actually can't - Cinema contains neither. While a graph of the previous albums would be akin to a mountain range, high-low-high-low, Cinema would be graphed as a straight line - although considerably more enjoyable. There are no standout tracks, no catchy "Hello"'s or epic sing-along "The Chariot"'s , but neither is there any of the filler that plagued their previous releases, most notably on predecessor So Many Nights. It is simply more of a cohesive album than its rockier predecessors - and for that reason it can be counted as the best album since their debut in 2003.