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Album Review

The original title, Crank, would have been apt. Producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Echo & the Bunnymen) was brought in to toughen this band's sound and set them apart from the wave of U.K. upstarts who were pounding U.S. shores. That he did. But it's not necessarily progress; Talk Talk's master experimentalist, Tim Friese-Greene, gave Catherine Wheel's brilliant debut, Ferment, a dripping beauty, opulent textures illuminating barely hidden firepower. On even the most angry, aggressive tracks, such as "Texture" and "Shallow," this shimmering, shuddering mist was still ever-present. Many of those glistening touches have indeed been subtracted by Norton, and they're missed. That Chrome is still a terrific LP proves Catherine Wheel capable of eclipsing the overload. Like another sharp LP that "cranked" for an hour without much sonic letup, Chrome reminds one of Sugar's Copper Blue. Not because Catherine Wheel covered Hüsker Dü on the 30 Century Man EP; it's because that was the last LP that combined this kind of songwriting prowess, raging playing, dynamics, pop tunes gone kablooey, and huge, bonfire sound. And unlike that toasty Sugar LP, this twin-guitar quartet knows how to bring it down: both the spindly single "Crank" and the resplendent "The Nude" seem almost tearful, they're so pretty through the thickness, and the knockout "Strange Fruit" is as fulsome as it is fierce. Rob Dickinson sings as if to choke on his words, yet never loses a gritty determination backed soundly by his and Brian Futter's guitars. Add in heavier versions of previous B-sides-that-deserved-better "Half Life" and "Ursa Major Space Station," and you've got a double play from a band too resolute to fall victim to sophomore slump wimp out, too talented to write half-baked tunes in two minutes, and too strong to glaze out in a shoegaze haze some pigeonholed them in after Ferment.

Customer Reviews

Fantastic- One of the most underated bands ever

Chrome is a beautiful album, full on, atmospheric and perhaps always destined to fall between the cracks as it is part indie shoegazing and part metal. Although lacking some of the contrasts of their other work this is a very consistant piece of work, a must for any CW fan.

Ahh

It's little gems like this that you forget about and aren't left with that disappointed feeling when you find them again. Makes me feel young again.

My Third Wish Is.....

I'm overjoyed to see the likes of Slowdive and more recenty Ride have taken the plunge and reformed. What would make this old Shoegazer's life more complete would be these fine Suffolk treading the boards once more. Great album and Ferment recorded a few years previously is just as dandy.

Biography

Formed: April, 1990 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

By using their influences as a mere launching pad and consistently developing their many strengths, Catherine Wheel was able to outlast all of their early peers. With their initial singles and first album, the band from East Anglia fit snugly with the remainder of bands that the British press eventually labeled as shoegazers, a short-lived sub-scene of bands that were characterized by an inactive stage presence, loads of effects pedals, and buried vocals. However, the always tuneful Catherine Wheel...
Full bio