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The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 12, 1997

Catherine Wheel aims for 'a big statement'

By Fred Beckley

"Playing in America," says Rob Dickinson, "fulfills my romantic vision of what touring in a rock and roll band would always be about. That's why we come back so often. It's a grand country on a big scale. It's like no other country in the world in terms of the cities and the diversity and distances."

He says that in Cleveland.

Catherine Wheel's fifth album, Adam and Eve (Mercury), springs from such notions. "We went out of our way to make a record which would top everything else we've done and somehow tie all the threads of what the band has turned into over the years," he says. "We wanted something which was a big statement musically and emotionally."

The prospect of an "emotional whack" looms large in Dickinson's thinking. "You either get a kind of a rush off a record or you don't.

"I wanted every song to hit people on some kind of level which is something other than making them want to throw themselves around on the dance floor."

Remembering his clientele, he quickly qualifies: "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Dickinson and his three bandmates strive for that emotional whack with dynamic contrasts. Rather than use "guitars cranked up to 10 going all the way through the record," they punctuate the onslaught with periods of relative -- albeit raw -- calm. Volume changes come with gunshot subtlety. Think of Peter Gabriel fronting Smashing Pumpkins.

Dickinson's oblique lyrics deal largely with relationships. "This is a people record," he explains. "It's about how people get on with each other, or fail to get on with each other. It's about the first hello to the final goodbye."

But he tackles one of the "fundamental differences" between America and his native England in "Phantom of the American Mother": "It's about the irony I sometimes see in America's love for its family values. Sometimes I see family values being put second to the promises of good fortune and the American Dream."

Adam and Eve has, at least, given the band new optimism. Before making the album, Dickinson thought it might be the last. "I think this record has shown us a new way, given us a path to go down. I think we have another one in us."

Catherine Wheel, with Gandharvas, at the Theatre of Living Arts, 334 South St., at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: $11 in advance, $13 at the door. Phone: 215-922-1011.

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