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Rolling Stone Online, September 29, 1997

Creation Explanation

The evolution of Catherine Wheel's "Adam & Eve"

Catherine Wheel frontman Rob Dickinson speaks with much forethought but zero inflection. He chooses his words carefully in order to explain the band's latest and most epic album, "Adam & Eve." "If we had a concept behind the record," Dickinson says in a cockneyed monotone, "it was that we'd use every trick that we could to get people to stay with the record till the end."

Listening to the record all the way through pays off. Like Radiohead's similarly ambitious "OK Computer," "Adam & Eve" is an album -- not two or three choice tracks wrapped in musical fat. Catherine Wheel's fifth full-length release contains artistic elements common on concept albums -- irony, despair and cautious optimism -- but, unlike "OK Computer," it oozes with enough harmonic divergence, melody and pop hooks to make it accessible to the fickle MTV generation. "I hope it's positive," Dickinson says. "It's not meant to be melancholy."

"['Adam & Eve'] has some themes on it and we chose the songs because they had some kind of emotional or sonic empathy with each other," he adds. "I think anyone familiar with the group will see that each record we've made [before] this one was a move forward or sideways in a way."

Even last year's B-sides compilation, "Like Cats and Dogs," was essential to the band's move from the guitar-fueled brawn of 1991's "Ferment" and 1993's "Chrome" to the atmospheric daze of "Eat My Dust You Insensitive F---" (from 1995's "Happy Days") and leaner, more ambient songs (e.g. "Future Boy" and "Goodbye") on "Adam & Eve." "We did some acoustic shows at the end of the last tour that went really well," Dickinson says. "Those shows had a big bearing on the way we did a lot of the songs for this new record. This record also had a huge influence from ['Like Cats and Dogs'], which opened our eyes to the [atmospheric] side of the band that we'd forgotten about."

On stage, Catherine Wheel performs most, and sometimes all of the songs from "Adam & Eve" -- often in the same order they appear on the album. "We feel like they all deserve to be performed and then we can gauge the reaction and take it from there," Dickinson explains. "We feel to select individual songs would do a disservice to the record." The band does an extraordinary job of recapturing the album's emotional scope, augmented by a touch of performance art: As the group plays songs from the record, a naked man and woman contort their bodies in two rectangular wooden boxes behind the drum set, in imitation of the album's cover art.

Despite glowing reviews for the album and poppy first single ("Delicious"), sales of "Adam & Eve" have been sluggish -- it has sold 13,000 copies since its release last month. This may indicate that Catherine Wheel won't be riding the gravy train any time soon, but Dickinson doesn't mind. "Once you start putting platinum records into the equation, that upward slope of creativity starts to get compromised a little bit," he says, before adding with a straight face, "if this record sold huge amounts, it would be OK. I think we're wise enough and have enough experience under our belt to cope with it and still make a great record next year."


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