"Catatonia eventually imploded and to be honest, I didn't care. A solo LP (Cockahoop) I didn't listen to followed, and now this LP arrives in the post, unheralded. And whaddaya know? I really, really like it. "
I really hated Catatonia, I really did. I hated that vile, 1990s cocksure "democracy of drunks" attitude that Cerys Matthews had. Brazenly riding their one-trick pop-pony for all it was worth before the scene ended - and in the process Matthews finding out that excess can be a soul destroying thing (not just something to boast about) - Catatonia eventually imploded and to be honest, I didn't care. A solo LP (Cockahoop) I didn't listen to followed, and now this LP arrives in the post, unheralded. And whaddaya know? I really, really like it. This has something to do with the fact that Matthews sounds genuinely strident and determined, rather than vacuously ebullient in her approach to her work. And the fact that The Great and Wondrous Gruff Rhys is called in to work on and write some tracks.
The opener Streets of New York is such a great track in that its clunky rhythms are balanced by Matthew's incredibly charming uber-girly delivery. Plus it's got a winning melody and bags of appealing (SFA??) kookiness to spare. Oxygen is also a charmer, and Cerys Matthews really throws out an overblown - at turns funny and world-weary - but always convincing vocal performance. It's a very hard track to describe sonically (once you get past the thumping drums) but it is pretty brilliant and begs attention. The single Open Roads is a lovely ballad with an up tempo, sing-along chorus. This Endless Rain is a sad but beautiful lament, sparsely instrumented; some of this song's melancholy beauty infects the track that follows, Blue Light Alarm. Again it's maudlin and reflective, (despite the thumping choral interruption about three minutes in) but, again, it possesses a charming melody and very cleverly arranged instrumentation.
Morning Sunshine is my fave track on here, replete with its bouncing chorus and soaring vocals. It's a bobby dazzler. Seed Song is a breathy, slightly hippy paean to all things that grow. It has a feel of a show tune about it (why it keeps reminding me of Paul Giovanni's Maypole is anybody's guess) and is in total contrast to the bar-room logic of What Kind of Man, which in turn quickly gives way to Ruby; a bouncing pop song with lots of interesting electronic squiggles and blurps that prevent the track from settling down at all. The spiralling vocals by contrast give a very dreamy feel and eventually the track is allowed to blossom out into a great, all-embracing pop swirl. Elen is a return sonically to the lights of Blue Light Room, a soft beautiful Welsh ballad with haunting piano runs and soft lilting acoustic picking. Is that Gruff whispering backing vocals perchance? Oh and let the track play out, as there's a surprise...
A lovely, heartfelt LP. One for a quiet afternoon's listen. We heartily recommend it.
Words: Richard Foster.