Catatonia

Catatonia

Last updated: 17 November 2008

Catatonia were one of the major Welsh indie outfits to break through into the limelight in the 1990s.

The band's original line-up was Cerys, Mark, Paul Jones, Dafydd Ieuan on drums and keyboardist Clancy Pegg. Daf later joined Super Furry Animals, and Clancy became bassist for agit-rap group Tystion.

The original line-up stayed intact for the first two Catatonia singles: 1993's For Tinkerbell (which was NME single of the week) and 1994's Hooked.

Members

  • Cerys Matthews
  • Mark Roberts: guitar
  • Owen Powell: guitar
  • Paul Jones: bass
  • Aled Richards: drums

A clutch of singles followed: Bleed, Sweet Catatonia, Lost Cat and You've Got A Lot To Answer For. They gained increasing airplay and press attention for Catatonia. The debut album Way Beyond Blue was released in September 1996, scraped into the UK top 40, and is now considered by many fans to be their best work.

The following summer should have seen the release of the Mulder And Scully single. However, the release was shelved and I Am The Mob was issued instead that autumn. Again, it scraped into the top 40 before disappearing. But Catatonia had an ace up their sleeve.

The breakthrough came in January 1998. Mulder And Scully finally got its release, and went straight in at number three. Suddenly Catatonia were all over the front page, the press couldn't get enough of Cerys, and their music was simply everywhere. A week later the number one album International Velvet came out.

More airplay came with Road Rage and Strange Glue, and the band were at their peak. They toured with Manic Street Preachers, and headlined in Australia and New Zealand. But all was not well in the band.

Cerys and Mark had split up during the making of International Velvet. Indeed, many of the songs on that album detail the breakdown of their relationship. But they'd managed to put their problems behind them to keep the band going. The cracks became more apparent as long spells on the road took their toll, and inter-band relations became ever more fractious.

In 1999 the downbeat and contemplative Equally Cursed And Blessed album came out, trailed by the lush but unrepresentative single Dead From The Waist Down. Although the album went straight to number one, sales overall were disappointing and subsequent singles failed to match their predecessors' success.

Londinium, a swipe at London, was a miserable song, the release of which was tantamount to idiocy. Unsurprisingly, airplay was minimal, and promotion by Catatonia's London-based record company was muted. It was followed by the desperately poppy Karaoke Queen, but the game was up.

Their best days clearly behind them, Catatonia cancelled a UK tour in December 1999, but limped their way around Australia and Japan while Cerys was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Bizarrely, however, she was finding top 20 success with Baby It's Cold Outside, a duet with Tom Jones.

Although the end of Catatonia was widely expected, they regrouped and recorded another album, the critically-praised but commercial failure Paper Scissors Stone. It emerged in July 2001, in the week that Cerys was admitted to rehab to receive treatment for "exhaustion and a recurrent asthma complaint - both of which have been exacerbated by drinking and smoking".

They finally confirmed the split in September 2001, to no-one's surprise. It was a sad ending to a frequently distinctive and brilliant band.

In May 2003, Cerys returned to the fray with her debut solo album, the country-tinged Cockahoop. Mark Roberts is still involved in the music industry.

In autumn 2007, Owen Powell started broadcasting on Radio Cymru with a new Welsh-language music show.


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