REVIEW: Catherine Wheel – Adam and Eve (1997)

CATHERINE WHEEL – Adam and Eve (1997 Mercury)

The 1990s presented a slew of new bands that, while not hard rock, did rock.  Some of them had connections to heavy metal.  Catherine Wheel had more than a few.  For example, Iron Maiden.  Managers Rod Smallwood, Andy Taylor, and Merck Mercuriadis (listed as a member of the band on this album) also handled Iron Maiden.  Singer Rob Dickinson has a cousin in that band.  For even more rock royalty, Bob Ezrin has a production credit as does Gggarth Richardson.  (With credits like those, you won’t be surprised that the album was partially recorded in Canada.)

For my money, I think Adam and Eve is Catherine Wheel’s best album.  It’s an argument that can be made, for it is a big dense emotional listening experience that plays out like a concept album.  The acoustic intro certainly lends the feel of a complete, framed work.  “Let’s get started…let’s get started…”

Blowing in like a cold wind, “Future Boy” quietly continues.  Droning guitars blend in as the song builds, and breaks into a beautiful acoustic verse.  Sonically layered, droney and feedbacky music, hits you wave after wave.  Rob Dickinson’s emphatic vocal melody is the initial hook, but there is so much more going on with “Future Boy”.  An utter masterpiece.

Then we suddenly careen into a poppy blast of fun called “Delicious”.  Simple in structure, but with hidden hooks in the mix.  A guitar blast, a brilliant chorus, and plenty of shimmer.  An easy single.  A piano interlude (further adding to the conceptual feel of the album) breaks into another single “Broken Nose”.  This one slams a little harder.  A stream of building music.  There’s a quiet break and then it’s back to hammering guitar.  There’s also depth — bells, organ, subtle guitar melodies.  Another real masterpiece.

Into epic territory.  “Phantom of the American Mother” bleeds acoustics, electrics, organs, percussion, and plaintive vocals.  “How you gonna feel if Superman and Sonic Youth are fairy tales?”  It’s a trip in and of itself, full of deep emotions and musical genius.

On a personal level, “Ma Solituda” is and probably always will be my favourite.  There’s a delicate sadness, but with a hopeful shine…and cello.  A gentle acoustic strum is paired with a defiantly powerful chorus.  It’s a vocal tour-de-force for Rob Dickinson.

“Satellite” has a pop feel, with an upbeat guitar hook.  Crashing cymbals, an unbelievable chorus, and loud guitars.  “Satellite” was not a single but should have been.  The refrain of “When you and I were young,” will ring in your brain for hours afterwards.  A slew of guitar solo noise is like frosting on top of a very loud and sweet dessert.  The mood turns on “Thunderbird”, a long but undefeated number with its own peaks and valleys of emotion.

Between “Thunderbird” and the next track, “Here Comes the Fat Controller”, the album becomes more of a slow burner.  The previous poppy firecrackers gave temporarily given way to some tracks that are more…mountainous.  They take time to climb.  “Here Comes the Fat Controller” is one such song, but a rewarded exercise.  Listen for tinkling piano in the back, adding even more colours to the palette.  “Sing, sing,” and enjoy.  “How do you feel?”

You can really hear Bob Ezrin’s influence at this part of the album.  The music gets muffled as someone gets in a car and closes the door, shades of “Detroit Rock City”.  The mood changes again on “Goodbye”, like a lullaby for a hangover.  It also feels like that a song that belongs near the conclusion of an album like this one, with its cinematic nature.  There’s still “For Dreaming”, the longest song and the climax to a pretty intense album.  That still leaves the denoument, which is the soft untitled outro.  With minimal accompaniment, Rob Dickinson ends the disc.

I’m gonna phone,
Everyone that I’ve known,
Through the downs and the ups,
And who I suspect have written me off…
As an insensitive fuck…
And say good luck, and goodbye.

Like a favourite movie, Adam and Eve feels like a story with a beginning, middle and end.  With conflict and resolution.  With character growth, and avoidance of cliches.  With light and shade, nuance and allusion.  Roll all that into a rock album and you have a hell of a way to spend an hour.

5/5 stars

 

 

25 comments

      1. Yeah like I said it’s hard to pick a top record (I even love the much maligned Wishville). The early shoegaze and hard rock years vs. the indie and alt rock sound of the later records.

        My favorite song however will ALWAYS be Heal. Larger than life energy on that track. A bitch to play on the guitar in tune because Rob tunes his Strat sharper than standard A 440 for that song. You have to guess and retune by ear because it isn’t at a set pitch that you can quantify on a guitar tuner lol.

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    1. Fun fact: a catherine wheel is actually a firework! It’s those spinning wheels. Did you ever have those? The key was to make sure it’s spinning against something flat and even or it would get stuck and just sit there spitting out sparks.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This was just after we saw them in concert in 1996! It was a festival, they were playing and we had to ask somebody nearby who it was on stage. They were very good! I looked up the setlist from that day, it’s short (festival) but it went:

    I Want To Touch You, Way Down, Little Muscle, Crank, Heal, The Spirit Of Radio (Rush cover, we discussed this) and Black Metallic. Hm, looks like we didn’t get any new song previews , ah well.

    Great stuff. I had this album ages ago, thought it was very good! A 5/5 at Lebrains, though, wow!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Derek likes their earlier heavier stuff but this is the one for me. Epic, atmospheric, layered. Strange melodies to be found everywhere. Passionate performances. Rob Dickinson is definitely not an “insensitive fuck”!

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  2. I have a promo 12″ from their Happy Days album that was sent out to DJ’s without any indication of who the band was, so they would give them a fair chance and not dismiss them without listening to them. And not dismiss them as ‘shoegazers’.

    You can have it if you want.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was more to get people to listen to them without prejudice. I used to have a load of promo CDs and a CD copy of Happy Days, all already given away I’m afraid.

        You can definitely have it Mike, you’ll need to wait until the Christmas tree is down as it is currently blocking any access at all to A – F in my records.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah they kind of went out with a whimper, and never heard from again. Rob Dickinson did one solo album, it didn’t appeal to me, and then he quit music. Now he runs a high-end auto detailing business! So when Cousin Bruce needs to get his Porche tuned up, he goes to Rob.

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