Friday, 3 April 2015

Oliver: Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (7 December 1991)

Peel ended his show on 7/12/91 by playing the full length version of this song and that's the one presented here.

Having already presented"the after-dinner mint" in Catherine Wheel's major label debut single, it's with great pleasure that I include the sumptuous main course.

Listening to this elegantly, monolithic rock song, I find myself shaking my head in bewilderment that in their native UK, no Catherine Wheel release (single or album) ever charted higher than number 35.   There are a couple of different theories to this:

1) They got lost in the pack as the guitar zeitgeist turned from shoegaze to grunge.  However, they achieved bigger success in America during that period, perhaps because there's always been a ready-made stadium rock audience there; more so than here.

2) Small voices set against big backgrounds never succeed.  Throughout music history, if a band has cranked up its sound, it only hits big if the singer can rise above it and make itself its master rather than its follower.  I love Rob Dickinson's vocal on this, but I can see why plenty others may well have    decided to ignore it.

3). They were a band out of their time.  Had Catherine Wheel emerged a couple of years later, they would have found an environment that would have been only too happy to plug them and champion them.  Jimi Goodwin must have been making notes while listening to this and planning out Doves's future if Sub Sub ever needed to change its direction.  Do my ears deceive me or is there more than a hint of the riff that Noel Gallagher would use throughout Live Forever wending its way through the mid-section?  There's influence on Coldplay, Embrace, Starsailor and all those other bands who came on "big" in the late 90s/early 00s in these grooves and to greater or lesser degrees they would all hit paydirt when they emerged.  But in the early 90s, this all seemed a bit rockist and vague.  They had none of the swagger of the true stadium bands, and lacked the raw intensity of the up and coming grunge groups.  I had never heard of them until I listened to these recordings, but I'm glad to have uncovered them.  A cult band who should have been superstars.

Video courtesy of MarkTurver1990.

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