A-Z: Catatonia (part 2)

Before I start I’ve got to say that I should not be allowed in record shops!! I went to HMV yesterday with the intention of buying 1 album, namely Gruff Rhys – Candylion. I did indeed buy that album, but I also managed to buy another 3! And I’m trying to save money!! Bad bad Chantal. The other 3 were Brakes – The Beatific Visions, Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope. I listened to all 4 last night and they’re all brilliant, so at least that slightly justifies my lack of self-control?!? Right? Sadly the Brakes and Bright Eyes albums have missed out on making my A-Z now, but the other 2 will pop up at some point…though er not for a while yet!! Anyway, back to Way Beyond Blue…

Catatonia – Way Beyond Blue (album)
Yes this is my 2nd copy of this album. Well, technically it’s my 1st copy! I feel I should explain, starting at the beginning…apologies to those of you who’ve heard this a million times already ;-)… so, like a lot of people I first became aware of Catatonia when they released Mulder & Scully. Well, I think I’d heard their name mentioned before that, as it sounded familiar, but I couldn’t have told you anything about them or name any of their songs. As an X-Phile I naturally loved Mulder & Scully! It wasn’t just the X-Files reference though, of course it’s a brilliant song in its own right. It could have been a one-off though, I wasn’t necessarily going to become a Catatonia fan. Then came Cerys singing on The Ballad Of Tom Jones, which again I loved – but this was a Space song, not a Catatonia song – so although I knew I loved Cerys’ voice, there was still no guarantee I was going to be a Catatonia fan. But then came Road Rage! At a time when so many bands seemed to be releasing 1 good song and following it up with a song that sounded exactly the same, thus negating my affection for the original song, I was so so relieved that Catatonia were an exception to this rule. Road Rage was just as brilliant as Mulder & Scully (if not more so, although M&S will always be my fave), but it was different!! Hoorah!! And then to follow it with Strange Glue?? Well, that was it! I had to get me International Velvet!

At that time I was 17, in the sixth form, not working and living at home. So although I now have the tendency to buy CDs as and when the urge hits me, back then it was much more of a luxury! I had an allowance, but I was saving it up for when we went to America that summer. We’d been to America the previous summer too and I’d been most impressed that their CDs were generally much cheaper than they were over here. That year I’d mostly just been looking for Queen CDs that I didn’t already have. Queen were my favourite band throughout my teens and I was rarely excited by anything modern I heard on the radio. I was oblivious to any kind of indie scene, so just stuck to listening to Queen and a few other random things, like 60s girl groups! There were ocassional people who broke through to me, like Alanis Morissette, but it was rare. Anyway, I’d had no problem finding Queen CDs in America, so that was all great. And as International Velvet was at number 1 in the UK I’d surely be able to buy that in America too, no doubt cheaper than it was over here, right? Yes I was that naive!! So in the weeks and months leading up to our holiday, whenever I went in a music shop I’d just ogle International Velvet, reading all the song titles and imagining what it was like. I started going to the ‘C’ section of the CDs before I went to the ‘Q’ section, which was unheard of! I always used to go straight to ‘Q’! But yes, there’d be lots of copies of IV, but none of Way Beyond Blue, so I was completely oblivious to the fact that IV was actually their 2nd album. Surely if they’d released another album it would have been in stock!!! I did mention my naivety of the whole music industry at this time right??

Anyway, the summer came and we went to America. A fabulous time was had, including visits to some large record stores, where I desperately searched for International Velvet. But no of course I couldn’t find it! I was also searching for Tin Planet by Space, as foolishly assumed that would be easy to find too. I did actually manage to find that in one store, but it was imported from Japan (but of course!) so was more expensive than it would have been to just buy it in the UK! Most disappointing. I can’t remember which CDs I ended up buying that year, but they weren’t Catatonia or Space ones! Back in the UK I’d spent all my money, but my birthday was soon approaching so that was cool. I turned 18 and 2 of the presents that naturally stick in my mind were Catatonia – International Velvet and Space – Tin Planet.
“But you’re supposed to be talking about Way Beyond Blue!! Get on with it!”
“Hey, I’m just setting the scene. And it’ll save me having to do it again when I get up to International Velvet!”
“Whatever! Just get on with it!!!
Uh oh. Talking to self. First sign of madness!

So, Way Beyond Blue… I was completely oblivious to its existence until I got on the internet and started looking up Catatonia (aka reading Adam Shutes’ site. Mmmmm yellow). I don’t know why I hadn’t looked them up on the internet before, but it wasn’t really something I did as a matter of course back then. Living at home I wasn’t so able to be permanently attached to the internet 😉 When I did read about WBB, naturally I wanted to hear it, but it was still not to be found in the shops. However, Equally Cursed And Blessed was then released and round about the same time they reissued Way Beyond Blue. Suddenly it was everywhere!! And cheap!! I remember buying it with my Easter money, along with the X-Files movie on video!! I think this was just before ECAB was released. ECAB was released about April 12th yeah? Was Easter just before?? Probably. Anyway, I listened to WBB a few times and enjoyed it, but it didn’t really grab me initially. It quickly got relegated when ECAB was released, which I loved! However, after the obsessive playing of ECAB subsided, I started listening to WBB again and started to appreciate it for the brilliant album it is.

“But why do you have 2 copies?”

Oh yeah, well the copy I’m about to listen to is the one that I bought that Easter in 1999. It’s quite scuffed up now and there’s a crack on the cover that’s been there for years, but I love that about it. As I bought it in Virgin in 1999, it’s obviously one of the re-issues. I discovered a little while afterwards (through reading Adam’s digest) that there’s a page missing from the inlay of the re-issue – it doesn’t have the lyrics to You’ve Got A Lot To Answer For in it. I don’t know if this was a mistake or whether it was some record company decision about not reprinting the lyrics to a song about pregnancy tests and the CSA over the top of an image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus!! Although I’m leaning towards the second explanation! Sadly. But yes, my copy didn’t have this page, which kinda bothered me. I then started keeping a look out for original issues of the album. Then when I was at Uni in Leeds and paid one of my regular visits to The CD Centre (RIP! *sob*), where they sold a lot of 2nd hand CDs, I found a copy of WBB. As had become a matter of course, I opened the case and took out the inlay (which thankfully you can do in shops like that!), started flicking through and found the page that was missing from mine! Hoorah!! So yes, that’s the CD I listened to on Thursday night. It cost me just £6.99, which I know because most of the sticker’s still attached (a downside to shops like that! Their stickers really do stick!). So now you know! You probably also know more than you really care to about my discovery of Catatonia and my naivety of the music industry before that, but I don’t care – it’s my blog and I’ll ramble on if I want to!!

Wow, it took me an hour to write that! I could have listened to the whole CD and had time to spare. I’ll stick it on now…
‘Lost Cat’ – I really didn’t take to this song when I first heard it. Don’t know why. It grew on me but didn’t become one of my favourites really. I’m not sure if it even made my Top 777 Songs list in August 2005…*checks*…no, it didn’t. However, since Cerys started doing it live from Dec ’05 and throughout last year, my affinity for it has grown a lot. It would definitely make my favourite songs list now. Interesting the difference that’s made by attaching certain experiences and memories to a song. It shows just how subjective these judgements are.
‘Sweet Catatonia’ – This one’s always been a fave. And I love the video for it!! It’s one of the few songs I’d heard before I got the album actually, as had recorded Catatonia on Long Play on Sky One, which showed a collection of their promo vids, including Sweet Cat, Bleed and YGALTAF. When I first listened to WBB those 3 songs remained my favourites as they’re definitely the most instant songs on the album. I found that most of the others were growers, which is why it was so easily put aside when ECAB was released, as that was a very instant album. Arguably too instant I suppose – often it’s the growers that become your favourites in time.
‘Some Half Baked Ideal Called Wonderful’ – one of the best titles for a song ever! Even if I do often think of it as ‘Mickey’, just to save repeating the title in my head! 😉
‘Bleed’ – It was good to hear the album version of this song, rather than the ‘clean version’, which is what I’d heard from watching the promo vid. Although I do quite like the way the lyric cuts off in the clean version – it changes the whole flow of the lyrics and gives it an interesting effect.
‘Whale’ – one of the first growers to er grow on me! I love the whisperyness of Cerys’ voice on it.
‘For Tinkerbell’ – One of my favourite songs on the album, no question. Love it. This is probably obvious from my e-mail address infact. 😉
‘Gyda Gwen’ – the whispering at the beginning of this secret track confused and creeped me out a bit when I first heard it, he he. I was already familiar with the concept of secret tracks, but when you’re alone in your bedroom and the music stopped a few mins ago and you suddenly hear people whispering, you do start to question your sanity! Another favourite song though, it’s just beautiful.

Catatonia – International Velvet (album promo)
Ah, International Velvet. My favourite album. If you read my whole diatribe above you should have a good idea as to why it’ll always have a special place in my heart. It sparked off so many things for me and I hold it personally responsible for the development of my current taste in music, including my particular love of Welsh bands, the meeting of some of the nicest (and slightly crazy) people ever, who are some of my best friends, and a large part of my general lifestyle and outlook on things. In some ways it seems strange to attribute so much to one album, but I’m absolutely certain that if it hadn’t been released my life now would bear no resemblance to how it actually is. I’m sure most music obsessives have an album like that and this is mine. I will surely therefore enjoy this opportunity to listen to it 4 times successively!! Right?? Here goes listen number 1…
‘Mulder And Scully’ – This is of course the song that kicked it all off. Quite fitting as the opening track! I still love it and the lyrical content always strikes a nerve. Tis my theme song.
‘I Am The Mob’ – An instant favourite. I remember thinking ‘why hasn’t this been a single?? It’s an obvious single! It’s brilliant!!’. I later discovered it had been a single and had only reached number 40. Thus confirming the ludicrousness of the charts and the overlord quality of Radio 1.
‘Johnny Come Lately’ – one of the grower tracks for me, along with Goldfish & Paracetamol, Why I Can’t Stand One Night Stands and to some extent Part Of The Furniture. Now one of my favourites on the album! And always brilliant live.
‘Goldfish And Paracetamol’ – This album has the perfect balance of instant tracks and grower tracks. Initially you keep playing it for the instant tracks, but then you really start appreciating songs like this and skipping past M&S and Road Rage (which you’ve played to death by this point!). Why this song wasn’t more instant I don’t know, it really is brilliant. And the lyrics are some of my favourites on a song ever. I think it was partly to do with my age and my tastes at the time – too much listening to Queen?!? Although a lot of Queen songs are pretty odd and not that instant really! A lot are though I guess. But yeah, love this song a lot.
‘International Velvet’ – I was looking forward to this track before I even heard it, as had flicked through the lyrics booklet and seen it had Welsh verses. Bilingual songs were quite a novelty to me at the time; the only other one I was familiar with was Teo Torriatte by Queen, which I loved. This song didn’t disappoint either!! An anthemic song in every sense.
‘Why I Can’t Stand One Night Stands’ – Like I already said, this was one of the ‘grower’ songs. However, this is the only one that I really didn’t like that much to start with. Infact I’d skip it quite often. I’m not sure how long it took for me to warm to it, but I eventually did. It’s still not a favourite, but I do actually like it now. Infact there aren’t any Catatonia songs I dislike – they all get me eventually!! In some ways I almost wish there were some I disliked, so I’d seem more objective and less like I’m blinded by my love for them, but it’s a testament to them and their songwriting that they wouldn’t release anything that’s crap! Infact I’d find it difficult to name any songs by any of my favourite bands that I really dislike. Yeah there are some I’m not so fussed about, but none that I see as bad. Not that I can think of anyway…
‘Don’t Need The Sunshine’ – such a perfect little song. Simple and beautiful.
‘My Selfish Gene’ – I haven’t talked about this album as a whole and how emotional and cathartic an album it is. The highs and the lows in life are all there and this seems quite a fitting album closer. It’s funny to think it could have been ‘That’s All Folks’. In some ways it should have been and yeah it’s my favourite song and wow what a way to end an album that would have been. But I wouldn’t change this album for the world now – I like the gentle and kinda futile end that ‘My Selfish Gene’ gives it. ‘That’s All Folks’ would change the whole dynamic of the album – going out on more of an ass-kicking high. It seems wrong somehow. I liked the way Steve Lamacq described the album on a Radio 1 documentary – something along the lines of “it’s an album that says ‘I’m strong – oh no, wait, I’ve just fallen apart again'”. Love that.

Catatonia – International Velvet (album promo)
This is a different promo to the previous one! This one has a photo of the band on the front and tour dates on the back. The previous one just had the track list etc on it, over lots of WEA logos. Why I feel the need to own all possible variations of things I don’t know – feel free to psycho-analyse this! I know I do. Something obsessive-compulsive in my nature? A boyfriend substitute?! Ha ha, maybe to some extent. But hey it doesn’t do any harm (other than to my bank balance) and keeps me happy, so who cares? I shouldn’t feel shamed into analysing my need for collecting things. Oh, wait, am I psycho-analysing my psycho-analysis now?? Time to shut up methinks.

Catatonia – International Velvet (album)
The very well-played CD I got for my 18th birthday.

Catatonia – International Velvet + BBC Live (album)
Japanese import with 4 BBC session tracks stuck on the end of the album.

I think I’ll have a bit of a break now before moving on to ECAB! Plus this post is probably long enough already!! 😉

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