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Album Review: The Cabarats – A Fool’s Paradise

The Cabarats are back with their long-awaited second album A Fool’s Paradise. The Cabarats are a flotilla of sound – from reggae-ska to ska-punk, with Balkan, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences.

This sextuplet of talent is comprised of Shelley Polaine, Leo James, Dan Lotoczko, Jake Leonard-Williams, Rich Palmer and Oliver Bignell; each playing a variety of instruments including oud, flugelhorn and Hammond organ, they bring a feast of music to the table.

Recorded and produced by Josiah Manning at Momentum Studios, mastered by Anti-Logic, with artwork by Jake Leonard-Williams, A Fool’s Paradise is clearly a work of love. This shines through evermore, in the fact that the album was crowdfunded and paid for by supportive fans – to whom the Cabarats say they are extremely grateful!

I first experienced the Cabarats at Maui Waui Festival back in 2021. The tent they played in exploded with dancing feet, joy and emotion and I haven’t forgotten that feeling. One of the best bands – probably my favourite at the festival. These are a happy band.

A Fool’s Paradise is an eleven-track shaboom of sound. Think The Skints, or a female-fronted Gogol Bordello, with a shower of Shantel, and a few drops of Goran Bregovic essence. Whether you want to have something beautiful in your earphones, or dance the night away at a party, this album fits has tracks for each emotion. The Cabarats have clearly considered each track, how it sounds and where it sits on the list. It’s a truly lovely listen – I’ve listened to it more than ten times already. Right, let’s check out some of the music.

‘Don’t Know Why’ starts off the album with a bang. It encapsulates the sound of the Cabarats. Fast-paced ska-punk played on a variety of instruments with sharp tempo changes, and loud-in-your-face vocals, whilst retaining all that love and joy the Cabarats seem to have bags of, even though the lyrics of ‘Don’t Know Why’ are an ode to someone who clearly pissed them off.

‘Don’t Know Why’ – The Cabarats: Official Music Video

‘Island’ is like a summer’s day in the 90’s relaxing in front of your Mega Drive in your mum’s lounge. Cruising down Malibu beach on Outrun without a care in the world. It was like having a shower in musical memories and I’m so here for it. They played it recently on BBC Introducing and I’m not surprised, it’s an excellent track.

The solo in ‘Yorgo’ is just beautiful, an excellent tune to zone out to, the fingerpicked melody carries you off with traditional vibes, pure unadulterated – for want of a better word ‘gypsy-punk’.

The album is composed like a song. Each track bounces off the other like a musical tide. Crashing waves of ska-punk, drums and beats to skank to ebb away to make way for their smooth, traditional tones washing on the sand.

‘Mindmasher’ is a true ska track. A little deeper and grittier than the rest of the album, you can sink your dancing teeth into this one.

‘Mindmasher’ – The Cabarats : Offical Music Video

Sucker for harmonica over here – ‘Fields of Wheat’ is a lovely serenade, a tragic love story, a lament, that quickly turns into a jam. It’s worth pointing out here the talent of the Cabarats. How they tumble as many instruments as they do into their musical mix is quite astounding. Not one single track on the album sounds overdone or lost in complexity. It’s a balance each time, whether it’s traditional folk or ska-based rhythms.

‘Kürdili’ has a dreamscape build-up, while holding on to a simple fun melody. Here, they play with sound like snake charmers. Bending the tempo and bouncing the melodies from one instrument to another with atmospheric vocals from Shelley. It would be illegal not to dance to it.

The album finishes on the ska-punk sounds of ‘Fly Away’, you can imagine hearing this in a festival tent as their second to last song. You think about needing a beer or a nice sit-down, but the reverse psychology is strong.

This band are one to watch. Their creativity and understanding of the technical side to composing sound is something that draws you in. Once you’re there you don’t want to leave.

A Fool’s Paradise is out and available for download on 3rd Feb 2023. It is as pulchritudinous to look at as it is to listen to. Pre-order here.

If you’ve loved what you’ve heard, The Cabarats have two upcoming shows for their album release weekend, on the 3rd and 4th February: get tickets here!

Festivals 2023:

The Cabarats will be playing a bunch of festivals this year, so if you miss out on their launch show you can absolutely catch them live (which I thoroughly recommend).

Bearded Theory Festival this year on the Maui Waui stage!

Balter Festival

Altitude Festival

Watch this space, there are more festivals to be announced soon.

The Cabarats:  Website / Bandcamp / Spotify / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

Review By Jess Milner:  Twitter Website / Facebook / Instagram / TikTok 

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