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Cerys Matthews - Never Said Goodbye

Cerys Matthews, Never Said Goodbye

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

LONG gone are the days of Cerys Matthews as the It Girl of Britpop and lead singer of Catatonia. Having survived that whirlwind of success and the rehab that followed, the singer has emerged as a very respectable solo artist in her own right.

2003’s Cockahoop proved that there was much more to life beyond Catatonia and Tom Jones collaborations and Never Said Goodybe her sophomore solo effort, continues to build on that good work.

Recorded in Nashville, where she now lives with her husband and two children, the album contains many pleasant surprises, not least in the way Cerys manages to mix a commercial, radio-friendly sound with elements of country, soul and folk.

Lead single, Open Roads was a useful indicator of what to expect. While never likely to blow you away in terms of invention or out-and-out brilliance, the track had a breezy, wistful feel that effortlessly placed a smile on your face.

Melodically, it’s upbeat while the vocals were distinctly those of Cerys – impossibly sweet, yet not nauseatingly so.

The album is pretty much the same – it won’t win any awards for creativity and probably won’t feature in too many year-end “best of” lists but it’s a jolly enough listen that boasts some fine moments.

Opening track Streets of New York sets the standard nicely, built around some stop-start drums, piano chords and guitar riffs that picks up on one of the singer’s recurrent themes – small town pleasures as opposed to big city strains.

Yet when she sings “I’m at the start of something”, you kind of have to believe that Cerys sees this album as the start of a new direction and era for her.

Oxygen contains some more nice melodies and an almost European sensibility at times that’s more Serge Gainsbourg than Nashville, while the swirling piano melodies and enchanting vocals on A Bird In Hand ease you into a warm, dreamy state as she purrs lyrics “sitting there getting old in the shade of the same old tree”.

The epic Blue Light Alarm is another album highlight, slow-building into an epic soundscape before closing on Cerys’ fragile vocals and a solo piano chord.

While there’s traces of The Beatles and other 60s outfits in the upbeat and thrilling Morning Sunshine, which was co-written with Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys.

Only the odd track mis-steps, such as What Kind of Man, when Cerys drops her sweet style for a gutsier approach that sounds borderline drunken.

That said, Never Said Goodbye just keeps getting better the more you listen to it, capably combining easygoing melodies with elements to provoke a little more thought besides. You’ll have fun ticking off the influences, mixing up the genres and revisiting the vocal delights that Cerys has to offer.

It’s an album that’s certainly worth becoming acquainted with…

Track listing:

  1. Streets Of New York
  2. A Bird In Hand
  3. Oxygen
  4. Open Roads
  5. This Endless Rain
  6. Blue Light Alarm
  7. Morning Sunshine
  8. Seed Song
  9. What Kind Of Man
  10. Ruby
  11. Elen