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Wet Cats in Light Clothing by Tania ZampiniWet Cats in Light Clothing

May 28, 2014

by Tania Zampini

 

 

Vestiti Leggeri (Light Clothing) is the title of I Gatti Mézzi’s fifth album, and fans do by now expect irony from the Pisan band – delivered, as well, in their recent international tour –Vestiti leggeri, anche d’inverno (light clothing, even in the winter). They expect it because I Gatti Mézzi don’t play hard rock, jazz, blues, or pop; they play clever.

 

The band’s rich original compositions can be defined cohesively only by one other word: local. Two Pisan natives, pianist, vocalist, and occasional whistler Tommaso Novi and guitarist Francesco Bottai, formed the band in 2005 to indulge their musical affinities and to present audiences with a sincere, unadulterated, and at times ironic version of the Pisa that raised them. Their very name is a testament to their artistic program: mézzi is the Pisan, not Italian, word for “wet,” making them The Wet Cats to their initially very local audience. Two years after their formation, the duo doubled their outfit – and their success – adding drummer Matteo Consani and upright bassist Matteo Anelli. Together, they made impressive forays into Tuscany and, eventually, beyond. The Vestiti Leggeri, anche d’inverno tour alsotook them to France and Belgium.

 

They define their sound as “a type of ironic, experimental, cultured, and irreverent composition that glides on melodies ranging from jazz to swing, resonating with the tones of popular music.” This popular music, made of the folk songs of their upbringing, dense with detti popolari (popular sayings), urban legends, and tales of caution, inform I Gatti Mézzi’s own satirical description of Pisa.

 

Vestiti Leggeri (the album) opens with “Piscio ar muro” (I piss against the wall), a track that gently lampoons members of Pisa’s drunken and often homeless population and their habitual practice of relieving themselves in public places. The following track, “Marina,” a play on Pisa’s seaside beaches, caricatures the stereotypical Pisan woman. But with Vestiti Leggeri, cultured by time and tempered by Novi and Bottati’s recent transition into fatherhood, I Gatti Mézzi balance their caustic compositions with genuine depictions of Pisan life, heartfelt tales of parenthood, and a coming of age beyond the city’s walls. “Soltanto i tuoi baffi” (Only Your Moustache) is a son’s difficult admission of love to his father, “L’amore, ‘un lo faccio più” (I’m Giving Up on Love), a lyrical rendition of the everyday reality of lifelong companionship. “Pepe” is Bottai’s tribute to his young son, and “Lacrima Meccanica” (Crocodile Tears), a note on childhood frustrations, real and imagined, as comedic as it is poignant.

 

Though Vestiti Leggeri is marked by touching ballads, I Gatti Mézzi’s compositional maturity neither replaces nor comes at the expense of their trademark animated rhythms. During a recent performance at Florence’s Flog, they treated their audience to a raucous rendition of “Portami a pescare” (Take me Fishing) from their third album, Struscioni, to the roaring applause of a fully immersed crowd proudly belting out familiar lyrics.

 

It didn’t matter that not all present were Pisan; I Gatti Mézzi’s overall project speaks to an Italy that sees itself mirrored in Pisa’s alleyways and along the slice of the Arno that passes through it. “Roba da gatti mézzi,” (the stuff of wet cats), “our fathers would say,” they write on their Facebook page. “The worst thing that could happen to a cat is to be surprised by a flood in an alleyway late at night, or by the river’s overflow in the city. Two cats, soaked to the bone, frolicking through an alleyway at night, looking for a fishbone or a female in heat is the idea that fascinated us and inspired us to recount a Pisa of the middle class, technical and globalised, increasingly forgotten in its own dark and stinking alleys, in the sounds and in the noises of those that animate them, and among their dry and worn-out inhabitants living between a purr of love and another of desperation.”

 

Who among us has never felt trapped between two such extremes in the loneliness of a misunderstood society and a forgotten illustrious past? I Gatti Mézzi capitalize on the universality of this sentiment to create an authentic musical experience – for the fifth time. Vestiti leggeri is available for streaming at rockit.it.

 

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