Sunday, August 12, 2012

Catherine Wheel - "Ferment" (LP Review)

You know that music that's played before and in between sets at concerts?  Presumably it is the sound engineer's cousin's band, with music that is simultaneously slightly familiar (if only because it is so derivative) but ultimately forgettable.  It blandly fills the aural space without distracting from the live acts that will follow.

Got that sound in your mind?  That's what "Ferment", the 1992 LP by Catherine Wheel sounds like.  None of the songs on this LP are really bad, some are decent (e.g., "Indigo is Blue"), but it's mostly an uninspiring shoegaze-by-numbers.  A reminder: I like shoegazing, but CW is no MBV or Slowdive; they're not even Curve or Lush -- a point apparently lost on Allmusic's Andy Kellman.

Uninspiring except for, and this is a huge "except", the song "Black Metallic".  Catherine Wheel caught lightning in a bottle for this one epic song.  I don't recall this song getting radio airplay, and although they have a video for the single edit (i.e., 4 minute version), I don't remember the video either.  But you really need to hear the 7 minute LP version; the single version doesn't build the same energy.  And it goes without saying that you also need maximum volume.

I'm not entirely sure what the song is about: some explanations include being in love with an emotionally unavailable person ("I never see you when you're smiling") or even an automobile ("Your skin is black metallic").  Those are pretty boring explanations; I read in some forgotten page a long time ago that it was about sex with a robot.  Granted, that's almost surely not true, but it ought to be true because it lends an engaging sci-fi creepiness to the song ("I think of you when you're sleeping / And all the secrets that you're keeping").

Standout songs: "Black Metallic" (7 minute LP version), (live version), (4 minute single version)

Skip 'em songs: none

Songs that appear: "Indigo Is Blue" (live version)

Final score: 5/10.  I don't normally recommend skipping the entire LP in favor of a single, but this is one of those times.

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