05/11/2006

After Catatonia... y Ffyrc

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First came Y Cyrff, then Catatonia and now the moving spirits behind Y Cyrff have re-emerged as Y Ffyrc with a cracking new album called "Oes".
But before getting to the new stuff, some background... Y Cyrff (The Bodies) were the best Welsh-language band I ever heard. A Welsh Clash full of attitude but also lyrics of subtle poetry. They could write catchy riffs in their sleep and they were great live as well as on vinyl (yep, we're talking 80s here). Singer-guitarist Marc Roberts could do anger and ankst better than anybody and bassist Paul Jones was a constant sidekick in all the above-mentioned musical projects.
Both were working-class lads from Llanrwst who lived the "four musicians in a Transit" lifestyle for little reward for a decade. There were European tours alongside Anhrefn but there were also crappy gigs in the middle of nowhere where promoters offered them £27 (I know, I was one of them). I also remember a memorable gig with Y Cyrff, Anhrefn, Attila the Stockbroker and the Newtown Neurotics - all for a quid in Rhosddu Community Centre. We got the last two bands cheap cos they were playing in Bangor Univ
Y Cyrff mutated into Catatonia - with Cerys providing Marc with a chance to retreat to the shadows and concentrate on the music and songwriting alongside Paul. Catatonia went huge with their second album - deservedly so. Amid the headlines about Cerys's latest antics were some catchy tunes and even more catchy riffs. The lyrics became more poetic but retained that edge. "Storm the Palace" is not a typical Catatonia track but it was a typical Cyrff song. Anyone who can recommend turning Buckingham Palace into a Spar gets my vote...
When Catatonia finally went catatonic, Marc and Paul messed around with the Sherbet Antlers project before coming back to what they've always done best. Paul has also designed a stunning cover to the CD based on some old Soviet era artwork - the covers of the Cyrff albums were always worth getting for their original artwork too.
Good to have you back, lads.
Of course the worry is that, after all that hype, the new CD is crap. No need to worry - Y Ffyrc (The Forks) have anagrammed the original name but it's full of the same immediately catchy riffs and changes of tempo. There's a
world-weary cynicism to add to some of the old anger: "Pwy bleidleisiodd dros yr holl ffyliaid?" (Who voted for all the idiots?) asks Marc in "Heb Eithriad" (Without Exception).
The Catatonia years haven't mellowed them, just matured the bitterness nicely and the sense of loss, betrayal and missed opportunities is never far away. Forget the teenage ankst, this is middle-aged ankst and is all the darker for it.
"Godinebwraig" (Adultress) is angry accusation with references to a dark car park in Brecon, while "Byth" (Never) is a song to lost love. "Mae 'na le" (There's a place) hits the spot immediately - with uplifting chorus that hints that "the place" he's seeking is more of a feeling than anywhere in particular.
It's no surprise that these anti-stars have a pop at the superficial world of the fashion industry in "Gwisgo Fyny" (Dressing up) but it's muted, as is the downbeat musing on getting old - "Mae pob dim rwy'n eu garu yn mynd i ladd fi, mae pawb dwi'n cusannu yn diflannu" (Everything I love is going to kill me, everyone I kiss disappears).
More ankst follows with the pregnant girlfriend's betrayal in "Beichiog" (Pregnant) - we're straying into very dark territory here: "Babis heddiw yn hwligans fory" (Today's babies, tomorrow's hooligans).
"Nia be wna'i?" (Nia, what shall I do?) offers a short acoustic break but then we're back to more loss and darkness. Politicians are put on the spot for "closing your eyes, putting their faith in fortune" rather than dealing with the problems the world faces in "Heb Eithriad".
"Bylchau" (Gaps) is the smalltown boy's escape from Llanrwst to the bright lights of Cardiff but never quite getting there it seems - "mae pendraw'r enfys yn symud tra dwi'n symud" (the end of the rainbow moves as I move). The rock star lifestyle didn't make much impact on Y Ffyrc - except to confirm as the closing track "Corridor" does that "mae'n haws bod yn unig mewn cwmni" (it's easier to be lonely in company)

• Anyone wanting to catch up with Y Cyrff can get hold of a Mae Ddoe yn Ddoe, a "greatest hits" compilation CD that covers from their earliest singles to the haunting and mature "Hwyl Fawr Heulwen".

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