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Jack Rabid, December, 1997

Catherine Wheel are an unusual pleasure: a band unafraid to stretch its parameters with each LP, while retaining a unique style filled with heart, raw passion, imagination, and intrigue. They are a band that makes one proud to be a fan, proving that intelligence and honest, thoughtful reflection can coexist with intensity in modern rock.

Those familiar with the often gasket-blowing assault of Catherine Wheel's recent efforts - especially their last proper album, 1995's Happy Days, with its meaty Sugar/Nirvana-like guitars - will marvel at Adam and Eve. It's infused with unusual moods, textures, and ambitious touches such as built-up volume shifts, or keyboards and acoustic guitars that suggest endless wide open spaces. The album is also an impressive thematic whole formed by the two bookend, untitled twin-tracks that start and finish the LP, with gentle connectors between songs in which chords of one tune drift quietly into the start of the next.

Even by Catherine Wheel's lofty standards (set by 1991's Ferment, with its stunning U.S. radio hits "Black Metallic" and "I Want to Touch You," and 1993's Chrome), Adam and Eve is boldly realized. In markedly lowering the volume throughout large passages of the album, they shine the spotlight on singer/guitarist Rob Dickinson, who alternates his smooth, cool, meditative, cooing with a more yearning, emotional, arresting wail. This while other guitarist Brian Futter, bassist Dave Hawes, and drummer Neil Sims negotiate a maze of hues and tints, from peaceful, pretty solitude to the most desperate pathos. Adam and Eve is as playful as it is gripping, and as sweet as it is contentious.

Last year's release of Like Cats and Dogs (a collection culled from the group's more ponderous, subdued, nearly ambient import b-sides) precipitated Adam and Eve's more restrained approach and more ambitious scope. More importantly, like much of Like Cats and Dogs, the new LP is again greatly influenced by two unique ambient/ethereal '80s LPs by English group Talk Talk, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. So it's significant that Talk Talk's leader Tim Friese-Greene, who'd already produced Ferment and played on Happy Days, was called in again to play keyboards on Adam and Eve and ended up playing a major role in the album's sound, along with vaunted Pink Floyd producer Bob Erzin, and Garth Richardson.

The more moody, reflective qualities that resulted are evident throughout, in the low-rumbling crash of "Broken Nose," the twinkling tones of "Ma Solituda," the near-Pink Floyd pastoral sweep of "Future Boy," the whimsical, throbbing ecstasy of "Delicious" and "Satellite," and the penultimate epic space-floaters, "Goodbye" and "For Dreaming."

To put it bluntly, Adam and Eve is brilliant, the sort of masterful LP that is hard to come by in these scattershot, post-Alternarock times, when too many young bands' CDs seem like a gaggle of formulaized radio singles, poorly-conceived filler, and Top 40 fluff. The culmination of seven years of dedicated touring and recording, these treasures are the fruits of a veteran band at the top of its game, with music every bit as accessible as it is uncompromising and dramatic. Few LPs today come near it.

Jack Rabid

Catherine Wheel may not be mainstream (yet), but they've got plenty of fans. Some of us have joined together to form a web ring of CW-related pages. Just click the appropriate part of the picture below, and you're off to another CW (Cool Web) site! Is that convenient or what?

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