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
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
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.
1. My Name Is Love
3. The Night
5. Intelligent People
7. Bathe Away
8. The Storm
9. Bad Beauty
10. Don't Change
11. Towering And Flowering
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