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The Crai EPs

As any astronomer will tell you, a star is not born, but made...

The Crai EPs

7 / 10 As any astronomer will tell you, a star is not born, but made - fashioned from random bits of space dust just awaiting their galactic moment. And so, each pop supernova has their own rubble, the sediment from a pre-brilliant past that lies, undisturbed, until they take their place in the firmament.

Then, the panhandling can begin. Crai are the Welsh label who put out [a]Catatonia[/a]'s first two singles, 'For Tinkerbell' and 'Hooked', in 1993 and '94. This timely CD reissue is, then, a shameless display of gold-digging in the wake of [a]Catatonia[/a]'s megastardom, disguised as a bargainous way to buy what are now rare records. On the other hand, though, it also proves that there was something precious there all along.

In fact, [a]Catatonia[/a] haven't really changed that much since the organ-tinged 'For Tinkerbell' was an [I]NME[/I] Single Of The Week. Cerys' copper-plated holler was more of a kittenish simper then, but it's still unmistakable - a gurgle that dared to be Welsh, well before the Valleys became the heartland of UK pop. What's more, though, these eight tunes display none of the awfulness you'd expect from the maiden recordings of a bunch of skint drinkers with guitars. They sound... well, like [a]Catatonia[/a].

That said, 'Tinkerbell' and the fabulous 'Dimbran' are of an era: spangly, moody tunes that owe a debt to the Cocteau Twins. 'Fall Behind Her', meanwhile, swerves into an unexpected groove that feels like a late stab at baggy. It's no accident, though, that [a]Catatonia[/a] still play 'Sweet Catatonia' - its total absence of a tune no barrier to memorability. And if 'Hooked' is the low point of the offering - a particularly unfocused, uninspired second single - then 'New Mercurial Heights' is the pleasant surprise. Its self-assured, starry-eyed, Celt-tinged pop weds indie jangling with sweet pedal steel, and looks forward to a bright future.

As pop comets go, then, [a]Catatonia[/a]'s has a particularly luminous tail.

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