Catherine Wheel – Adam and Eve

What I Think Of When I Think Of This Artist (part 3)

Catherine Wheel made one classic album and two excellent albums, which is pretty good for a band that released five studio albums. After the band broke up, Dickinson moved to California where, under the name Singer Vehicle Design, he modifies Porsches for millionaires.

What I Think of This Album

A lot happened after 1993’s Chrome. Significantly, the band indulged their worst instincts with the metal-oriented Happy Days (which nonetheless wasn’t all terrible) in 1995, and the next year released the B-sides and outtakes compilation Like Cats and Dogs, which took a decidedly more subdued and spare approach (including a dusty rendition of “Wish You Were Here”).

In 1997, the band further refined their earlier sounds and created the clean, light, and artsy Adam and Eve. With the perennial contributions of Tim Friese-Greene (after producing Ferment, he stuck to adding keyboards on subsequent albums), the band created spacious, expansive pieces (almost all are over five minutes long) that were also among their most melodic songs. On this album in particular, I can definitely hear the influence of Freise-Greene’s work in Talk Talk. Specifically, parts of Adam and Eve borrow obviously from Spirit of Eden. For the most part, guitarist Brian Futter reins himself in and finds new ways of creating texture and interest. Vocalist Rob Dickinson, on the other hand, takes the opportunity to adopt a full-throated grandiosity.

There is one straight-up pop song:  the sexy/silly “Delicious” (with guest giggles and spoken vocals from actor Cecelie Thomson). Fairly conventional in sound, it benefits from Dickinson’s yearning vocals and Futter’s neat seesawing lead, and an unstoppable rhythm from drummer Neil Sims and bassist Dave Hawes. The piano and vocal outro is . . . unusual. The band takes a midtempo approach on vivid, key-shifting “Broken Nose,” adorned with church bells. Futter unleashes some feedback early on, but it’s buried in the mix; a later nifty solo enjoys more prominence. Dickinson plays with his vocals to match the shifting moods of the piece. “Satellite” is harder and grittier by comparison, with tension-filled verses and a soaring chorus; the solo, while tame compared to Futter’s work on Chrome and Ferment, is still pretty cool.

The slower, more atmospheric pieces included the impassioned “Phantom of the American Mother,” which oddly references both Superman and Sonic Youth. You could call this tune pretentious but you’d also have to call it sumptuously beautiful. Futter does reel off a nice, distorted solo, and there is some great organ work towards the end. This is immediately followed by the soft and fuzzy “Ma Solituda” (who’s pretentious now?), which is the least-known but most-liked slow dance song at the indie kids’ prom.

Meanwhile, “Future Boy” takes its cues from Pink Floyd, a wide-screen offering with magisterial drums, washes of keyboards and guitars, and dramatic instrumental flourishes, with Dickinson crooning away. “Thunderbird” is a schizophrenic piece that is not sure what it wants to be, which is okay because it sounds good no matter what is happening at any particular moment in the song. I’m not sure what to make of the Thomas the Tank Engine-inspired “Here Comes the Fat Controller,” but I will tell you what the band makes of it:  a fucking masterpiece. With a lengthy, coiled intro, the song erupts with Dickinson’s bold vocals and evolves into a head-spinning epic. The two closing doors at the conclusion of the song are priceless (just listen to it – it makes sense).

“Goodbye” is another resplendent head-scratcher, shifting gears early to permit the band to try out their acoustic/electric psychedelia, before Futter drops in a scathing solo (natch). Needless to say, “Goodbye” is not the final song on the album. Neither is follow-up “For Dreaming,” for that matter; it is the longest track on the album, and cycles confusingly through different sounds. Thomson reappears briefly to quietly utter some Danish. This is the only track on the disc I can do without.

Bookending the album (“Intro” and “Outro”) are two short songs:  the first, a short bit of acoustic blues which ends with Dickinson saying “let’s get started,” and the last, a spare acoustic soliloquy which calls back to Happy Days’s “Eat My Dust You Insensitive Fuck.”

Bob Ezrin (Lou Reed, the Jayhawks, Nine Inch Nails) produced Adam and Eve. String arrangements were once again by the illustrious Audrey Riley (the Smiths, the Cure, the Go-Betweens, Echobelly, New Order, and Mojave 3.)

The Best Thing About This Album

“Delicious” is dumb but irresistible fun. I’m not proud to admit that the giggles do it for me.

Release Date

July, 1997

The Cover Art

It grabs your attention, without a doubt, and it’s fun to rotate it and attempt to figure out which way is actually up (the identical text running in opposite directions on the right and left margins encourage as much), but I can’t call it good. It’s more intriguing than pleasing. This was once again the work of Storm Thorgerson and Peter Curzon, with Julien Mills and Sam Brooks. The image here is darker-hued than the actual art. The logo the band adopted somewhere along the line – a C and W inside a gear – is ugly.

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