Cat 5 isn't shy about advertising the good looks of its multitalented female singer. The press notes that accompany its debut release describe Nicole Torrado as "powerful and sexy," and point to her extensive background in acting, choreography, and dancing -- she also used to sing with the band Groovology. But good looks will only get you so far. Torrado has to compete with a busy mix of keyboards, guitars, and turntables on Cat 5 (named after a computer cable). At its best, Cat 5, which formed two years ago, evokes the electronic alt-rock of Garbage, but too often the different instruments clash with each other. While the band's goal of combining live instrumentation with samples and electronic beats is laudable, it's not an easy task to pull off -- even an accomplished DJ like Moby fails when he tries to do too much with live instruments.
The album's opening track, "Remembering You," has so much going on that Torrado has to stretch her voice to be heard above the din. Even when Torrado sings within her abilities -- say, on the bluesy "Static" -- the mix of percolating synthesizers and alternately electric and acoustic guitars makes the track sound more like a cheesy power ballad and less like edgy electronica. "Alone" has more of a hook, but the rattling drum 'n' bass techno beats, cooing background vocals, and crunchy guitars never coalesce. Additionally, the extensive use of multiple vocal tracks in "Forgive Me" smacks of overproduction. Torrado tries to sound like Madonna on ballads such as "Heart Control" and "Never," but her bandmates -- bassist-DJ Eric Anderson, keyboardist Kurt Sikora, and guitarist Ryan Younker -- can't come close to creating the kind of soundscapes that producer William Orbit made for the Material Girl's Ray of Light. -- Niesel