Paul Cathro

Our song for day 30 of New Zealand Music Month 2020 is the opening track “Birth” from Paul Cathro’s recent 4-track concept EP “Birth, Religion and Loneliness”:

Cathro is the bassist and in former Dunedin/ now Auckland based band Ha The Unclear, in which guitarist band principle songwriter is his brother Michael Cathro. Michael has a distinctive Kiwi voice and a lyrical imagination combining observational storytelling with absurdist surrealism.

Paul Cathro here sounds much like brother Michael, and his lyrics take a similar questioning and probing approach, examining the human condition from the somewhat unusual perspective of a newborn baby only seconds old here on “Birth”, and wondering “What if I turn out to be/ A psychopathic business junkie?” before ruefully concluding “I didn’t ask to be out”.

Cathro’s songwriting and vocals on these 4 conceptually-linked songs comes across like a Kiwi Jarvis Cocker; nerdy, awkward, anxious, overthinking, and capable of delivering some of the most skewed lyrical wonders.  The music is also like a thrillingly adventurous mix of Pulp and another UK band Squeeze. 

Unlike the Aussie guitar-pop bands who sing in unashamed ‘strine accents, here in NZ we are mostly still embarrassed about our funny ex-cents and musicians who perform as their natural Nu Zild selves. Our commercial radio stations still prefer overseas sounds and locals who re-heat generic international sounds with geo-anonymous vocals, justifying this on the basis “it’s what the public want” even though it must be hard for their listeners to know what they want – what they really, really want – if they never hear it on the radio.  We should be hearing these songs on the radio, and celebrating who we are. 

NZMM 2020