Paper Scissors Stone

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For awhile there, Catatonia sounded novel and fresh in the middle of a British music scene warped on maudlin self-respect but, now that they've gone and suffered through their own euphemistically-tinged bouts of exhaustion and pop star rehabilitation, the rot has set in. With its sobered, Veruca Salt-style drift and gospel-orchestrated ill assessments, Paper Scissors Stone is, more than anything else, a warning against ever misunderstanding what it means to have most of the people like you only some of the time. In reality, there's nothing like chugging indie sung with the ferocity of a grown woman laying an egg to give a little polish to your record collection, but even the most committed fan should admit that there can be too much of an odd thing. Guitarist and core songwriter Mark Roberts offers very little for ex-girlfriend Cerys Matthews' sense of loss, fiddling with pop's bellybutton in the feathery "Shore Leave" or beside the ridged energy of "Stone by Stone," and he goes to great lengths to remind you of empty batteries and the terrible, regrettable reconciliation of ex-lovers. Perhaps given more time to situate itself against the shifting British indie community, Paper Scissors Stone would be viewed as a welcome return. Instead, it sounds like the clumsier, brittler answer to International Velvet, the natural pop thrills cut off at the knees and the music an unmemorable parenthesis to a career built on reactionary sleight of hand.

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