The newest project featuring Tyson Ballew does sloppy pop punk just right. Cat Heaven's jangly hooks seem to fall apart momentarily, then recollect themselves. On The Litterbox Sessions, minor chord-driven songs never come off too bossy or self-serious. As usual, Ballew's lyrics are a good balance between spitting personal/social commentary and sweet imagery. In one line, he gives us a scene: the seaside, a sky of gliding light and shots of whiskey. In "Our Last Days (In the Netherlands)" he pinpoints a whole storyline in just the line, "I cried out for you. What a dumb thing to do." On two tracks, Ethan J. Uhl sings in the raucous, heartfelt yelling style of Brian Whitson and the Night Wolves or Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker. Uhl wrote the glittery fist-pumping anthem "Scouts Honor" and he sings on closing gem "(Fuckin' Up) In Montana," which Ballew wrote.
"Manifest Destiny" is the weakest track. Overly obvious themes and a dragging chorus set it apart from the otherwise spontaneous sounding album. "Dictator Rock" is much fresher, wrapping humor and societal jabs into one package. And I love weird shout-outs like "Sometimes I really miss Matt, Brent, Tom and Dan." It doesn't matter if you don't know who they are, you miss old friends, too.
Cat Heaven plays at the VFW Thursday, Jan. 26, at 10 PM with the Juveniles and VTO. Free.