In “Catatonic Skinbag,” Blaenavon turn a low point into an angsty and rebellious rock anthem for the ages.
Blaenavon’s 2017 debut album That’s Your Lot was intricate and beautiful, winning you over with its layered arrangements, poetic lyrics, and quiet confidence. It presented a band who was confident in their sound, fond of experimentation, and extremely qualified at what they did. Cut to two years later and the UK trio are back with the loud, energetic, and fast-paced “Catatonic Skinbag,” the first single off their second album Everything That Makes You Happy.
Listen: “Catatonic Skinbag” – Blaenavon
Despite the self-deprecating lyrics, Blaenavon sound as powerful and bold as they ever have on the new single, showing us a new and more punk-leaning side of their sound. The metaphors which used to take over Ben Gregory’s lyrics are also gone, and his directness goes perfectly with the youthful, angsty, and slightly rebellious spirit of the song.
What a rare occasion
Dinner alone was a crime
Until a strange sensation
When I asked if I could be your guy
I never said it’d be easy
I’m the last man I’d ever date
Always tired, lacking desire
To feel enough to start the day
What a drag
He’s a catatonic skinbag
“Catatonic Skinbag” is composed of a mosaic of images which show moments of destructive behaviour, self-deprecation, and introspection. If you look at the bigger picture, you see sadness, loneliness, and someone who’s not too bothered with taking care of themselves. And while it’d be easy to turn these words into a slow, self-pitying ballad, Blaenavon knocked the wind out of everyone with a rock song for the ages. Gregory’s moments of weakness were expertly turned into a triumph, one that has everyone eagerly waiting for their next release.
Living can be simple
If you try your best to never try
What a lucky devil
Who reaps but never does the time
And everybody’s happy
When you’re the victim, I’m the crime
Who could fail it’s easy as braille
If you just read between the lines
But I wish he’d knock
If I liked to spend my evenings in darkness
I’d go to the betting shop
And put it all on red
And crawl back into bed
Find a series, brainlessly easy
And drink ’til I’ve a lolling head
Melt away in the sheets
Warm from all the sweat
Dream I’m famous, wake up shameless
And sore from a night of regret
When describing the song, Gregory says: “The song is about isolation. Cutting oneself off from the world to engage in fruitless sensual pleasures and pretending everything is ok. Watching fucking Netflix and drinking a bottle of wine when you should probably instead be in therapy. But there’s a way out. Art, friendship, love. You don’t have to be a catatonic skinbag. Lol.” Gregory is reflecting on his own habits with an acute self-awareness that one can only achieve once they’ve come out on the other side and have grown stronger.
Before the release of “Catatonic Skinbag,” Gregory released a letter to fans detailing the health problems he went through in 2018, and said that the album was made in the midst of his recovery. “Catatonic Skinbag” turns a low point into an anthem to dance and shout to, and after such a strong and poignant comeback, Everything That Makes You Happy has easily become one of the year’s most anticipated albums.
📸 © Luke Farley