Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Catherine Wheel, Ferment

Catherine Wheel’s “Ferment” is a fine example of how useful a collection like Rhino’s “The Brit Box ” can be.  I’d seen many references to the band but not listened to their music until I fermentheard “I Want To Touch You” from “The Brit Box”.  Liked the track, picked up the CD and have been thoroughly enjoying it since it landed in the CD player.  Thanks (again) Rhino.

Catherine Wheel are a four piece (two guitars, bass, drums and vocals) that are generally identifed as one of the UK shoegazer bands.  “Shoegazer” is a term coined by the rock press; most of the musicians given the label say they hate it.  “Shoegazer” music typically features massive walls of guitar effects and feedback – My Bloody Valentine is the prime example.  The press somewhat derisively labeled the bands as shoegazers because they often played with their eyes glued to the floor and didn’t engage in the stage histrionics favored by more traditional rock bands.  Apparently the rock press didn’t grasp that an important reason why the musicians were staring at the floor was that the guitar players had to make frequent and intricate use of floor pedals to produce the effects which were an integral part of the music.  The guitarists were playing with their feet as well as their hands.

“Ferment” is Catherine Wheel’s first album and it neatly exemplifies the towering guitars that were the backbone of the shoegazer sound.  However, unlike some of the other shoegazer bands who were more about feedback and effects than they were about writing songs, Catherine Wheel’s chiming, ringing, roaring guitars are always elements of the tune, not the whole reason for the tune.   Their guitar squall can be immense but it’s always harmonically integrated in the song.  Although the guitars define their sound, the Catherine Wheel’s main strength is that they wrote good tunes with strong vocals and nice hooks.  The album is also mixed well with a fine balance between the big guitar sound and the vocals and rhythm section so that all three components are allowed to make equal contributions.

Catherine Wheel have a reputation for refusing to remain in one musical place and for producing a series of albums that ranged far and wide over a number of musical styles.  I don’t know if I’m going to like where they’re going to go but I surely like where they’re at on “Ferment”.  This is a strong band and I’m looking forward to hearing more of them.  If you like wall-of-sound guitar bands, give “Ferment” a listen.  If you like My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” and haven’t heard Catherine Wheel, you’re not going to want to miss “Ferment”.


02/18/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] Brian Futter (guitar), Dave Hawes (bass) and Neil Sims (drums).  Both Chrome and their debut album Ferment are squarely in the shoegazer genre and this may have been part of the problem.  […]

    Pingback by Review: Catherine Wheel, Chrome « Tuned In To Music | 05/13/2008 | Reply

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