Catatonia International Velvet, 1998, Blanco y Negro Records
Mulder and Scully
I Am the Mob
Johnny Come Lately
Goldfish and Paracetamol
Why I Can't Stand One Night Stands
Part of the Furniture
Don't Need the Sunshine
My Selfish Gene
A band whose lead singer’s name is almost the same as mine and whose break out song was a massive X-files reference, I was always going to spend the end of the 1990s a bit obsessed with Catatonia. I was actually even a member of their fan club for a while (yes, really). I haven’t listened to them in a very long time though, so I wonder if I’ll still feel the same?
Formed in in 1992, this was their second full album and their break out. After the modest success of debut Way Beyond Blue, International Velvet hit number 1.
Mulder and Scully is a bright start to the album. Their most successful single, I loved this song as a kid, it’s the track that turned me on to the band but I have to admit it has not aged as well as some of their other stuff. It does still have one of my favourite love song lyrics ever though; “And as for some happy ending, I'd rather stay single and thin” pretty much sums it up for me and the song really does show lead singer Cerys Matthews’ voice off well. Game On seems kind of sweet and delicate in comparison but strangely the vocal also feels a bit rushed somehow. I am the Mob has always been one of my favourites to scream along to. It’s angry in the best way and still just as good as it was in 1998. Road Rage, another successful single is strong in the vocal as well as the melody and the changes of pace work really well, the echoes at the end still give me chills too. The midpoint of the album is two songs that, though lyrically interesting are not that strong and could easily be skipped. Title track International Velvet brings things back up again. Written in Welsh and English but truely an anthem for Welshness. It sort of makes you want to be Welsh, so that must mean it’s achieved its objective. Why I Can't Stand One Night Stands has a cool, languid quality that makes it an enjoyable listen. The use of drum brushes is a particularly nice touch. Part of the Furniture is another one that starts gently and changes tempo throughout. It’s just not that strong though. Acoustic Don't Need the Sunshine is lovely though, a real unexpected high point of the album. Strange Glue which has long been one of my favourite Catatonia tracks is just as epic and brilliant as ever, the guitar solo on this song is so good. This song just raises the whole album up. My Selfish Gene ends things with a whimper rather than a bang, it’s a bit annoying really, you feel they should have just left it off and ended on a high with Strange Glue.
The major theme here is relationship breakup, which is not surprising as Cerys Matthews and guitarist Mark Roberts had done just that before the recording of the album began.
I still love this album, I still know all the words to every song and I still love my favourites but even I have to admit that it is a bit hit and miss. The five singles are probably the best tracks. Sadly I think I’ve just grown out of Catatonia. The great songs are still great but this isn’t a mature album, I can see why I loved it so much as a teenager but I recognise as an adult that a big part of my love for it is nostalgia rather than the actual quality of the music. There is stuff worth listening to on here, but you are better to cherry pick rather than listen to it all. If you are completely new to Catatonia, their 2002 Greatest Hits release may be a better way to introduce yourself to them.
The band formed part of what was called Cool Cymru along with other Welsh bands; Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics and Super Furry Animals, Lostprophets and Funeral For a Friend rather than Britpop. Catatonia broke up in 2001 after two more successful albums. They seem to have been pretty much forgotten now so I can’t talk much about legacy although I can personally say that they had a big effect on my own life and while you may not want to listen to International Velvet in its entirety on repeat, a few more Catatonia songs on your playlists could definitely enhance your 2020.