Popular Welsh music in the 1990s


Last updated: 05 December 2008

Welsh pop and rock in the 1990s will be remembered by many mainly for the breakthrough of three of the biggest names in Welsh music: Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Stereophonics.

Badge saying I Love the 1990s

The Manics were the first Welsh band to really make a commercial breakthrough in the 90s. Unfortunately for them, it meant they had to suffer the clichés of lazy reviewers, with endless references to leeks, daffodils and dragons. Oh, how the boyos must have laughed.

But the Manics paved the way, not just for Welsh music, but also for guitar bands nationwide. When Britpop broke in the mid 90s the time was right Catatonia to make waves, first with their excellent indie cult hit album Way Beyond Blue, and later with the monstrously popular International Velvet. Sadly they crashed and burned after their creative peak, with the band limping on until they split in 2001.

Manic Street Preachers
Manic Street Preachers

Meanwhile, the Manics had survived the bleakness of The Holy Bible and Richey Edwards' disappearance, and were reborn with the monstrously successful Everything Must Go.

They were joined by Cwmaman's Stereophonics, who won critical acclaim for the smalltown tales of Word Gets Around, before the internationally successful Performance And Cocktails punted them into the big league.

Coming into the post-Britpop musical landscape, Super Furry Animals were a breath of fresh air. Their slightly psychedelic, endlessly melodic songs found them quickly signed to Creation, then in its pomp. They released the brilliant Fuzzy Logic, Radiator and Guerrilla albums before the label fell apart at the end of the millennium. But it takes more to keep a good band down.

There was no shortage of great guitar pop acts in the 1990s, many of which sang in the Welsh language. Other contenders included Big Leaves, Topper, Derrero and Melys, all of whom featured on the rather good Fierce Panda/Townhill compilation Dial M For Merthyr in 1999.

For those wanting to explore the Welsh-language music scene in the 1990s, two great compilations from Ankst help to tell the story. The first, Triskedekaphilia, was released in 1995. It featured session tracks recorded for Radio Cymru's Heno Bydd Yr Adar Yn Canu between 1991 and 1995. The show, hosted by Nia Melville, provided exposure for many of the great acts that would go on to greater things as the decade progressed. Now out of print, anyone wanting to dig a little deeper should track down a copy.

Super Furry Animals
Super Furry Animals

And in 2003 the label released Radio Crymi Playlist Vol 1 1988-1998, which chronicles many of the most important Welsh-language performers of this time. Ankst was doing more than any other label in this time to promote Welsh music, working as a launching point for a number of acts including Catatonia, Y Cyrff, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Ectogram, Datblygu, Ffa Coffi Pawb and SFA.

Another act which made its mark on Ankst was Llwybr Llaethog. The Welsh-language dance pioneers actually released their debut LP in 1988, but it was the 1990s in which they built a reputation for experimentalism and futurist gimmicks. They in turn inspired acts including Traddodiad Ofnus, Ty Gwydr and, perhaps most significantly, the agit-rap group Tystion.

Towards the end of the 1990s a host of guitar bands emerged. While Cymru became cool to some, Newport was being touted as the "new Seattle", in response to the US grunge outbreak earlier in the decade. Lasting success for the much-touted Newport acts failed to materialise on any grand scale, with the exception of Feeder, though Novocaine and the much-missed 60ft Dolls were among the better 1990s Newport bands. And in a nice bit of synchronicity, Kurt Cobain reportedly proposed to Courtney Love in a back room at the legendary TJ's club in Newport after a 1991 Hole gig.

I'll be around until the green, green grass is turned into a car park

Tom Jones

Just enough room for the obligatory Tom Jones mention: well, he started off the 90s with the album Carrying A Torch. In 1992 he was kidnapped by Mr Burns in an episode of The Simpsons. The following year he released a charity cover of All You Need Is Love. Then he appeared in the films Jerky Boys, Mars Attacks! and Agnes Browne. In 1998 he duetted with Robbie Williams at the Brit Awards, singing a medley from The Full Monty. The following year he was awarded an OBE, and released the hugely successful Reload album of duets. Guess you could say he was back, then.

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