Sweet Catatonia

Now the I’m a Celeb juggernaut has finally applied the brakes for this year, now seems as good as time as any for another short, nearly pointless list, this time my top five Catatonia songs.

I probably wasn’t the only one surprised to see Cerys Matthews enter the jungle. Indie songstresses don’t usually do reality shows. They stand about looking moody, record solo albums that nobody listens to, or switch genres and start making pop and dance tracks.  Reality shows are something of a novelty,and Cerys came across as lovely, if a little spaced out; much as you’d imagine her to be.

There’s always a lot of cynicism post-celebrity reality shows, especially with singers and musicians, about using the shows to revive their career, and sell more back records. While I can quite happily ignore J’s desperately-wishing-they-were-from-the-ghetto band 5ive, [1], Catatonia deserve a bit more time in the sun.

Unusually, for someone who isn’t renowned as a big gig-goer, I discovered how good Catatonia were when I saw them support Dodgy [2]. Cerys Matthews had a great stage presence and their set was tight, spiky and much better than the headliners. And yes, I did fancy her. She made great indie-pop and was Welsh. What was not to like?

Their debut, Way Beyond Blue, was beautifully twee yet punchy with some great singles that never quite caught on for whatever reason. Mulder and Scully, their breakthrough hit, remains a great slice of indie-pop while Strange Glue wouldn’t be the same without Cerys’ rasping tones. Ok, so Equally Cursed and Blessed was a massive disappointment, but comeback single Stone By Stone was as good as anything the band produced.

So, please radio stations around Britain, play more Catatonia, preferably delving into their back catalogue rather than the big hits. There’s plenty of gems in there, including these five:

1. Bleed.

This is a perfect example of why Catatonia were a great band. Catchy, with a great hook, yet rough around the edges. A charming piece of perfection wrapped up in a three minute song.

2. I Am The Mob

The first single from the International Velvet album, and one that deserved to be the track that propelled them into the public’s consciousness. Er, except it wasn’t. Widely ignored, the single limped to number 40, but is a great example of Catatonia doing what they do best. Loud, yet endearing, and great opening lyrics: “I put horses heads in people’s beds/Because I am the mob.”

3. Stone By Stone

A return to form after the rather rushed and muddled Equally Cursed and Blessed album.  Following their career, a pretty twee, poppy number should have been expected. Instead, there’s a more mature, reflective feel, with the strings adding an almost epic feel. But the spiky guitar from the debut is back, to create a soaringly majestic comeback.

4. Strange Glue

A simple, yet rather beautiful track, with lyrics on a failing relationship written from guitarist Mark Roberts male perspective, but given a haunting frailty by Matthews’ Welsh rasp.

5. Sweet Catatonia

It’s difficult to limit this to five. Mulder and Scully and Road Rage could have both justifiably been included (even if the latter is somewhat overrated), while it’s tempting to squeeze For Tinkerbell in. But Sweet Catatonia, like Bleed, is Catatonia doing what they do best – a ridiculously catchy chorus, in a sweet, enticing song with just a hint of attitude. Much like that shy girl who everybody loves but can really let her hair down when you get to know her.

As a child (well, teenager)  of Britpop, I’ve got plenty in my collection from the mid-90s that rarely gets a listen. Dodgy, for one. If it wasn’t for the existence of the Super Furry Animals, I’d put Catatonia forward for the accolade of Best Welsh Band Ever.

[1] Although, when they line up alongside other boy bands from the decade, some of their music was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. Everybody Get Up and Got The Feeling were fairly breezy numbers. Mind you, this was from the same period that spawned 911. 

[2] Also on the bill: youthful local band Muse. 

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