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Rob Dickinson
Fresh Wine For The Horses
Sanctuary Records Group

Since the official word from The Catherine Wheel camp came in - somewhere around 2001 - that the band was "parked", there has been precious little hope for the fans of the seminal shoegaze band for new music. Late in 2004, 50 Ft. Monster, a project from Brian Futter and Neil Simms (guitar and drums, respectively) surfaced, revitalizing the doubting and aching fans, and there were beginnings of rumors of a solo project from Wheel frontman Rob Dickinson. That project has finally surfaced, and it is stirring long time Catherine Wheel fans into a frenzy… and for good reason.

The epic balladry of "My Name Is Love" kicks off the album in a style that immediately recalls the Adam And Eve era of The Catherine Wheel. The guitars soar above solid drumming that reliably underscores Dickinson's rich tenor vocals. "The Night" has a decidedly Springsteenian bent, with its acoustic guitars gently carrying the tune over a minimalist atmospheric background. The track is of the same depth that made Nebraska a classic album to many listeners, and will most assuredly endear old fans, as well as new converts, to this album as well. "Mutineer" is a short dirgey track that would fit more easily into a Tom Waits' record than what someone would have expected from someone with Dickinson's pedigree. The track makes a stirring intro to the solid drumming and gentle guitars of "Intelligent People".

"Handsome" is perhaps the first sign on Fresh Wine For The Horses that Rob Dickinson still has ties to The Catherine Wheel. The guitars get a bit more distorted and sonic, the lyrics attain an edgier feel, and the layers of sound are fantastic cascades of rock bliss. It is possibly the most dynamic track on Fresh Wine… and the one that will most easily pull in fans of his (former) band. This trend continues on the second half of the album, with "The Storm" actually featuring his Catherine Wheel bandmates Futter and Simms. The track is actually a re-write of one of the songs that were recorded as a b-side for one of the never-surfacing singles from 2000's Wishville. The song is pure Catherine Wheel magic. The guitars are full of sonic excellence, the drums have that particular Neil Simms' feel, and Dickinson's vocals seem a bit more raw… more like he was in the mid 90's. Perhaps if this track had made it's way onto Wishville, that album would have had greater commercial success and not been seen as such an ugly duckling among The Catherine Wheel's records. "Don't Change" builds on the direction that Wishville actually moved in; that of simplified balladry with intrinsic heart and beauty, but lacking in dynamic intensity. And the track immediately recalls Pink Floyd, like much of The Wheel's later work. "Towering And Flowering" is one more of the lost tracks from the Wishville sessions, and it is nearly five minutes of powerful guitar and deliberately hi fidelity lo-fi production. Once again, had this song made the cut on Wishville, the world would be a different place for fans of The Catherine Wheel. Perhaps the most strongly beautiful few moments on the record come with the reprisal of "Mutineer"; chorus vocals blazing over powerfully chorded piano make for yet another excellent Pink Floyd throwback.

The overall feel of Fresh Wine For The Horses is one of elegant piano ballads and a maturing outlook on the world. No longer is Dickinson content to make some of the most sonic and beautiful of rock music; now his songs are a bit more musically reflective of the sentiments that have always existed in his lyrics. This new solo album is filled with delicate beauty and graceful poetry, leading to a renewed sense of hope amidst The Catherine Wheel's dutifully loyal fans.

-David DeVoe

Track Listing:
1. My Name Is Love
2. Oceans
3. The Night
4. Mutineer
5. Intelligent People
6. Handsome
7. Bathe Away
8. The Storm
9. Bad Beauty
10. Don't Change
11. Towering And Flowering

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