Happy Birthday, Cerys Matthews

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Friday, April 11, 2014
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Happy Birthday
Catatonia
Cerys Matthews
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Happy Birthday, Cerys Matthews

Today’s the birthday of Cerys Matthews, former frontwoman for Catatonia, a Welsh band that somehow, even with a highly attractive blonde woman fronting the mike (that would be the aforementioned Ms. Matthews), never managed to make any significant waves in the States.

Born in Cardiff, Wales in 1969, Matthews became part of Catatonia in 1992, spending the first several years of her time in the band in a relationship with guitarist Mark Roberts, but even after their breakup, Matthews and Roberts still co-wrote the bulk of the songs on Catatonia’s first three albums – Way Beyond Blue (1996), International Velvet (1998), and Equally Cursed and Blessed (1999) – and even on the songs where she’s not credited specifically, she’s still technically on there, because there’s a general songwriting credit for “Catatonia.” As for the band’s fourth and final album, 2001’s Paper Scissors Stone, it’s hard to say who’s responsible for what: in an interview at the time, Roberts made a point of praising the importance of the all-purpose “Catatonia” writing credit.

Catatonia’s lack of Stateside success is all the more surprising when you consider that, during their relatively short run, Catatonia pulled two #1 albums: International Velvet, which went triple-platinum in the UK, and Equally Cursed and Blessed, which, while not as successful, nonetheless went platinum as well. They also had a trio of top-10 hits (“Mulder and Scully,” “Road Rage,” and “Dead from the Waist Down”), along with seven others that made it into the top 40, with Matthews finding additional chart action via a pair of duets, first with the band Space on their song “The Ballad of Tom Jones,” then – appropriately enough – with Tom Jones on a cover of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (You can also hear her howling on They Might Be Giants’ “Cyclops Rock,” from their 2001 album, Mink Car.)

After Catatonia disbanded following the somewhat underwhelming performance of Paper Scissors Stone, Matthews moved to Tennessee, of all places, where she recorded her first solo album, 2003’s Cockahoop. She has since continued to record and release new material on a semi-regular basis, if not necessarily to the same level of commercial success that she experienced as a member of Catatonia, and she’s also become known for her TV appearances (she was on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2007), radio work (she’s produced several documentaries and hosted numerous programs), and books, including the 2013 Sunday Times bestseller Hook, Line and Singer.

To celebrate her birthday, though, we’re going to spotlight what’s still Matthews’s most famous gig: fronting Catatonia. If this is your first experience with the band’s music, here’s hoping you walk away with a desire to add the albums to your collection.