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Catatonia iTunes Tracks

Catatonia

One of only three Britpop-type bands to breakthrough from Welsh language indie labels (GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI and SUPER FURRY ANIMALS also emerged from Ankst), Cardiff’s CATATONIA cropped on Crai Records. Of course when CATATONIA formed in 1992, “Generation Terrorists” MANIC STREET PREACHERS were already catapulting homeland Wales as the in-place for indie rock.
Fronted by focal point Cerys Matthews and co-formed with guitarist Mark Roberts (who’d just left Ankst act Y CYRFF with bassist Paul Jones), CATATONIA were underway having found London-born female keyboardist Clancy Pegg and drummer Dafydd Ieuan (ex-FFA COFFI PAWB). In effect, the quintet were taking their style of Welsh-accented hooks to the alternative indie scene.
However, things didn’t get off to a flying start when the group offended Ankst’s strict Welsh-only language policy (on a 1993 compilation `Ap Elvis’) and were moved on to another leek-biased label, the aforementioned Crai. Released the same year, `For Tinkerbell’ led out a 4-track EP, while May 1994’s `Hooked’ sold out in a short time. Dropping Clancy prior to Rough Trade Singles Club single, `Whale’, whilst Nursery Records chose to issue `Bleed’ the following February, things were progressing.
Geoff Travis, who was behind them on their `Hooked’ 45, decided to lure them into his Warner Brothers-affiliated Blanco Y Negro label, and roped in Paul Sampson to work on their debut album. As Daffyd wanted to safari onwards with SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, drummer Aled Richards was drafted in as his replacement. Arguments within the band and the removal of producer Sampson led to further delays with said album, but finally `Sweet Catatonia’ hit No.61 in January 1996. Stephen Street was quickly installed at the decks, and with Cambridge-born guitarist Owen Powell (ex-Crumb Blowers) running CATATONIA up to five players again, `Lost Cat’ was one place off the Top 40 while they toured supporting SPACE.
1996 was indeed a transitional year for the band with two further hits – `You’ve Got A Lot To Answer For’ and a re-vamped `Bleed’ – both lifted from the much-delayed near Top 30 album, WAY BEYOND BLUE {*8}. Matthews and Roberts had penned most of the infectious jangle-pop pieces, but true fans already possessed several cues by the time of its release that September. Still, it was no compilation, despite how some critics regarded the star-studded set.
Much was anticipated for a glorious 1998 after Cerys and Co hit the Top 40 in late ‘97 with `I Am The Mob’. All predictions came true as they stormed the Top 3 as early as January that year with the X-Files inspired `Mulder And Scully’. This was only one of their triumphs (others being `Road Rage’ (#5), `Strange Glue’ (#11) and `Game On’ (#33)) taken from their acclaimed chart-topping album, INTERNATIONAL VELVET {*8}, though indie chanteuse Cerys would also team up with SPACE for the tongue-in-cheek romantic duet, `The Ballad Of Tom Jones’. Never far away from the limelight and with the help of producer Tommy D., CATATONIA returned in spring ‘99 with Top 10 smash, `Dead From The Waist Down’. The highest of three hits that included `Londinium’ (#20) and `Karaoke Queen’ (#36) taken from their follow-up No.1 album, EQUALLY CURSED AND BLESSED (1999){*6}, the 5-piece indie-pop outfit were going into the 21st century on a high note; Welsh hero TOM JONES solidifying their position when he and Cerys revived `Baby, It’s Cold Outside’, to help “Re-Load” his chart career.
With an incredible amount of hits under their belts, a hectic touring schedule, press and PR hounding the group constantly, it seemed like things were beginning to erode within CATATONIA. Singer and indie “babe” Cerys admitted to the press that she had had a breakdown during the group’s pandemonium year. The result was the very disappointing PAPER SCISSORS STONE (2001) {*5}, a cynical, alter-ego take of a band that could only now serve out one Top 20 volley, `Stone By Stone’. Missing was the sweet pop charm and charisma of Matthews’ croupy vocals, and in its place was the rancid leftovers of a band gone awry. The album was treated nonchalantly by the press, however, fans of the group re-emerged to show their support as the album sauntered its way into the Top 10.
It was to be a sad swansong as CATATONIA officially called it a day that September. That said, few post-split solo albums have sounded as re-energised or as charismatic as 2003’s `Cockahoop’, CERYS MATTHEWS’ solo hymn to the joys of kicking her bad habits and the delights of musical carte-blanche. That same year she married American music producer Seth Riddle (they divorced in 2007) and she continued as a mother and a solo artist, while also becoming a BBC6 broadcaster/presenter and honoured by way of an MBE for services to music.
© MC Strong 1998-2004/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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