Catherine Wheel
Ferment (2017)
Music On Vinyl

There have been few mail deliveries I’ve anticipated as much as the arrival of Catherine Wheel’s 25th Anniversary reissue of Ferment on vinyl.  Visually, it’s a splendid meld of orange and gold, pressed into 180g limited edition vinyl (1500 copies).  But the real magic lies in what comes out of the speakers when played.  Masterfully reissued by The Netherlands based Music on Vinyl, it is obvious from note one of opening track “Texture” that this company deeply cares about creating the best possible product for both discerning collectors and listeners.

The original pressing of the album is hard to find.  It came out in 1992, a point when music formats had transitioned away from vinyl and CDs reigned supreme.  Vinyl had been relegated to the back corner of record stores (at least in Canada), if you could even find it at all.  It was bulky to store, deemed by many to be inferior in that it highlighted flaws, ticks, and hiss, and could not be listened to on a walk-around player.  Today, those very same undesirable characteristics are what has made vinyl so highly sought after by those who abandoned it, or (like me) only started collecting music seriously when CDs were king.  Original pressings of Ferment in near mint condition can easily fetch $200 or more.  In 2010, Cherry Red records released a reissue of the album, but fans were not pleased with what was produced, believing it was sourced from a digital CD source file and simply recorded louder.

But enough about that.  What about the music?

A never-ending topic of discussion with any music head is “what is the best record by <insert band name here>?”  When it comes to Catherine Wheel, you’ll hear convincing arguments for Chrome, and Adam and Eve, both which are fantastic, but for my money, Ferment wins hands down. Ferment is an album rife with expansive walls of sound and has understandably been classed as a Shoegaze record, but to class it as such ignores much of what makes the album great, namely the songwriting and the powerful vocals of Rob Dickinson that unlike most Shoegaze records, are highlighted, not buried in the noise.  For that reason, an argument can be made that Catherine Wheel are more of an Alternative rock band than a Shoegaze band.  “Black Metallic” has long been the most widely known and successful song off the album, but “Indigo is Blue” and “Flower to Hide” cement my love for this album.  Add to it “I Want To Touch You”, “Shallow”, “Bill and Ben”, and “Salt” and you’ve got a start-to-finish masterpiece of a debut.

It comes from good authority that Chrome will be next to be reissued by Music on Vinyl, but so far no word on Happy Days, Adam and Eve, Wishville, or the compilation record Like Cats and Dogs, that contains the fantastic Pink Floyd cover of “Wish You Were Here” and “Spirit of Radio” by the Canadian prog-rockers Rush.

By Dave MacIntyre