Catherine Wheel – Wishville

Catherine Wheel

Ever since I heard the “Black Metallic” single back in the day, I have had a fascination with this band. For those that have not heard them before, this British band’s primary skill has been riding the fine line between melodic, almost “Manchester” style brit-pop and aggressive, metallic guitar rock. However, starting with the Happy Days record and following with 1997’s Adam and Eve, the band has taken a liking to radically changing their style and sound from record to record. Wishville is yet another change in sound, although not as radical as previous records.
The word that comes to mind with Wishville is “deliberate:” They’ve been doing this for a while now and have a great deal of confidence in their playing. They have all but given up on having a radio-ready hit, and although they do write very catchy songs, they have a “Pink Floyd”- like tendency to not end the song until they’re bloody well ready to. The slow tempo of “Gasoline” is a perfect example of this. The midrange bite of the guitars clobbers the listener, while Rob Dickinson’s unique gift with vocal melodies and harmonies keeps the focus on the melody. All the while, this song’s impossibly slow and steady beat won’t quit. Before the listener even knows it, four minutes have passed, and the song finally starts to make sense! Catherine Wheel has learned to hypnotize the listener, and they are one of the few bands that regularly records six minute songs that seem half of that length during a listen. Another standout is “What We Want To Believe In,” the closest they have come to their Chrome-era sound in years.
But this record isn’t without its faults. One criticism I can levy at the band is their lyrics. While Dickinson’s lyrics in the past have been adequate (and occasionally thought provoking), he seems to have quit trying. I remember poring through lyrics on the Happy Days record for hidden meanings, but now it is as if Dickinson thinks anything that comes out of his mouth is important. “I’m delicious, I am crap/ I am all of that.” Huh? Please try a little harder next time. And this record also follows the pattern of 1997’s Adam and Eve, which had the best first five songs on a record that year, and the rest was junk. Here again, don’t plan on listening past track five. Fans of the band know that five good songs really do go a long way with these guys.