martedì 17 novembre 2009

Catherine Wheel "Chrome"

Questo è uno splendido disco di rock. Non uso il termine shoegazer, perchè rispetto all'esordio, complice anche il produttore a mio avviso, le cose cambiano, spostandosi più verso l'hard rock, ma rimane intatta la capacità di scivere comunque pezzi potenti, maturi, intensi e vibranti. Chitarre rumorose che non inglobano la melodia, ma si lasciano guidare dalla stessa, mentre la voce di Rob si dimostra versatile come non mai. Un disco che a mio avviso è proprio poesia! (1993 Mercury)

Chrome is the kind of album that can end a band’s career. It’s so good, so very good, and yet it never attracted the attention or the sales that one would expect for an album this accomplished. The band had to Chromeknow how good it was and must have released it with great expectations. Having those expectations dashed by a lukewarm reception can break a band’s spirit and their heart. Catherine Wheel kept going releasing three more albums after Chrome but they never received the recognition they should have based on Chrome alone. It’s a brilliant record.
Catherine Wheel are Rob Dickenson (guitars, vocals), 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. “Shoegazer” was something of a pejoritive term coined by the UK music press for a group of bands that began to surface in the late 1980s that featured massive walls of guitar effects and feedback with vocals often unintelligible and buried deep in the mix. Part of the ethos surrounding the music was a pronounced lack of interest in or respect for the established music press and the critics of publications like NME and Melody Maker reacted by deriding the music. American audiences who weren’t reading the UK music press listened with more open ears and Catherine Wheel initially found more success in the US than the UK. The UK press then castigated the band for abandoning their home audience for America. There’s just no satisfying these guys.
Chrome features towering walls of guitar effects that make Phil Spectre’s trumpeted “wall of sound” sound like a puny thing in comparison. Dickenson and Futter sound like an army of roaring, chiming, ringing guitar players. One of the factors that set Catherine Wheel apart from many of their shoegaze contemporaries was that their music never abandoned harmony, melody and hooks in favor of raw guitar squall. Their guitars are immense but they always work in service to the song. They also have a way with discord that I don’t know if I’ve ever heard before. The band will occasionally add a discordant guitar line to the mix but they have an uncanny way of embeding the line in a wall of guitar sound that modulates in tone in such a way that it provides a bridge between the discordant line and the melody line. It’s as if they are providing a guided tour of how discord can arise from and be related to harmony. It’s a very neat trick and it can serve the perpose of easing listeners who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with discordant music into an appreciation of how dissonance can be made to work musically.
Chrome was originally released in 1993 and if the 20 year nostalgia cycle holds, shoegaze will be “rediscovered” sometime in the next 5 years. Actually, shoegaze may have jumped the gun as we are already seeing bands labeled as nu-gaze that feature big walls of guitar sound. Whenever it happens, perhaps Catherine Wheel will finally get the recognition they deserve for Chrome. It’s one of that small handful of albums that I’ll return to perodically through the years. If you like good songwriting and powerful guitars, check it out. (

The original title, Crank, would have been apt. Producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Echo & the Bunnymen) was brought in to toughen this band's sound and set them apart from the wave of U.K. upstarts who were pounding U.S. shores. That he did. But it's not necessarily progress; Talk Talk's master experimentalist, Tim Friese-Greene, gave Catherine Wheel's brilliant debut, Ferment, a dripping beauty, opulent textures illuminating barely hidden firepower. On even the most angry, aggressive tracks, such as "Texture" and "Shallow," this shimmering, shuddering mist was still ever-present. Many of those glistening touches have indeed been subtracted by Norton, and they're missed. That Chrome is still a terrific LP proves Catherine Wheel capable of eclipsing the overload. Like another sharp LP that "cranked" for an hour without much sonic letup, Chrome reminds one of Sugar's Copper Blue. Not because Catherine Wheel covered Hüsker Dü on the 30 Century Man EP; it's because that was the last LP that combined this kind of songwriting prowess, raging playing, dynamics, pop tunes gone kablooey, and huge, bonfire sound. And unlike that toasty Sugar LP, this twin-guitar quartet knows how to bring it down: both the spindly single "Crank" and the resplendent "The Nude" seem almost tearful, they're so pretty through the thickness, and the knockout "Strange Fruit" is as fulsome as it is fierce. Rob Dickinson sings as if to choke on his words, yet never loses a gritty determination backed soundly by his and Brian Futter's guitars. Add in heavier versions of previous B-sides-that-deserved-better "Half Life" and "Ursa Major Space Station," and you've got a double play from a band too resolute to fall victim to sophomore slump wimp out, too talented to write half-baked tunes in two minutes, and too strong to glaze out in a shoegaze haze some pigeonholed them in after Ferment. (Jack Rabid, The Big Takeover - All Music Guide)

- Kill Rhythm
- I Confess
- Crank
- Broken Head
- Pain
- Strange Fruit
- Chrome
- The Nude
- Ursa Major Space Station
- Fripp
- Half Life
- Show me Mary


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