Volume 91, Issue 54
Wednesday, December 3, 1997
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Spinning musical wheels in the garden
YOU THINK I LOOK TOUGH YOU SHOULD MEET MY COUSIN. Catherine Wheel bring their British lustful, temptuous and nostalgic sounds to the Nac, Dec. 5, with local favourites The Gandharvas.
By Lisa Weaver
Lust, temptation, nostalgia these are the themes Catherine Wheel's frontman Rob Dickinson finds universally valid and worth intellectualizing in musical terms.
When asked about the origins of the thematic concept for Catherine Wheel's latest album, Adam and Eve, Dickinson is quick to correct the definition. "I don't really think the record is a conceptual record," he states firmly. "It's about people dealing with each other, the happiness people inspire in each other, the torment and the way people let each other down."
The title of the new album is, therefore, like a clever title of an exploratory essay, summing up the ideas contained within. "Everyone has their take on the Adam and Eve fable," theorizes Dickinson. "And I think treachery, love and deceit all are happily boiling away there with Adam and Eve. It just seemed like a good way of summing it all up."
Adam and Eve is neat package, with two unique songs bookending the album. Why are these songs untitled and unlisted on the album? "I couldn't think of a way of labelling them which would make them appear to be anything other than songs," explains Dickinson. "I didn't see them as songs in their own right." But what they are is not exactly precise. "They are the two pieces which contain all the stuff that is going on in the middle, basically. That was their purpose."
This album definitely has a different feel from 1995's Happy Days, harking back to Catherine Wheel's earlier, sombre Ferment days. "We just threw everything in the pot for Happy Days," describes Dickinson. "This time around we felt if we were going to make a record people were going to stick with, there was no point in wearing people down with a blaze of guitars from the word 'go'."
Dickinson explains the instrumentation of the album was constructed to create a certain mood for the listener. "It's quite a warm, inviting, kind of 'womb-like' experience," he says, "which was the idea of the record. And then you get sucked into the ups and downs of what's going on within it."
Dickinson almost always writes with a universal world view in mind, rarely drawing from personal experiences. For example, "Phantom of the American Mother" is a look at the U.S. from an outside perspective. "The idea of 'Phantom' was to pinpoint a certain part of American culture which sometimes I think breaks down, which I always found as ironic from a country which has such a high regard for 'the family'," says Dickinson. "The idea that the American dream can sometimes get in the way of the most fundamentally important things in life."
Although they are essentially a British band, in the last few years Catherine Wheel has not garnered as much attention from European audiences as it has on this side of the Atlantic. Dickinson sees Adam and Eve as a fresh beginning for Catherine Wheel in Britain. "We haven't played in England for a few years," he confesses, "and it feels like a new start."
A few shows on this tour have included performances by dancers imitating the poses featured on the cover art of Adam and Eve. "It is something that we are getting more and more interested in," says Dickinson. "Presenting the music in a way which is more theatrical, more dramatic, which is less obviously rock 'n' roll."
He expresses his growing disillusionment with the music industry and shows an interest in changing it. "The limits of money and budgets make a lot of ideas untenable at the moment but I think I'd like to see us forging a new presentation of rock music in an intelligent way."
Obviously Catherine Wheel has creative plans for the future beyond Adam and Eve. "I think it's our most representative work of the band as it is at the moment," states Dickinson. "I think it's just starting to show the band's wit and potential, its ability to get into corners that many other people don't get into."
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