When we’re talking modern indie rock, there’s no undercutting the importance of Athens, Georgia and bands like Kilkenny Cats. We are helping to unveil the fabled Athens act’s new music video for “Thinking Fire,” which is acting as the lead track off of an expansive reissue of the band’s preeminent 1986 full-length Hands Down. The album has been remastered and expanded, a true collector’s item for hardcore fans, due out on October 6th via Propeller Sound Recordings.
“Thinking Fire” is one of the deeper cuts off of Hands Down, but it has always stood out as one of the band’s most notable tracks, with its delightful classic indie sound really capturing the essence of that era of rock. It might remind you of Kilkenny Cats’ fellow Athens counterparts REM, and their I.R.S. Records era, with its chiming guitars and naturally inclined pop melodies. It’s no wonder why REM bassist Mike Mills referred to Kilkenny Cats as the best band in Athens back in the mid-1980s.
The re-release of Hands Down actually coincides with the 40th anniversary of the formation of Kilkenny Cats. It was three years later, in 1986, that they released their debut LP Hands Down via Coyote and Twin-Tone Records, and it really was instrumental in them establishing themselves as one of that era’s best college rock acts. The album was both melodic and distinguished, musically accessible, but also featuring some firmer garage rock tendencies, which were not necessarily typical of Athens bands at the time. It showed remarkable growth for an act that, at the time, wasn’t all that melodic. The Cats were, previous to this record, known as more of a drone, darker-toned band that did not utilize much melody within their sound.
Enter Hands Down, and you get a full dose of just what Kilkenny Cats were all about. The album emphasizes the band members’ musical growth and their melodic breakthrough. It’s hard to imagine where we’d be without bands like Kilkenny Cats, who, at a time when indie rock had little to no traction, were there to pave the way and show others how it was done.