Friday, 7 November 2014

50 Albums to take to my grave #13: Adam And Eve

My first encounter with Catherine Wheel was back in 1992 around their first album. I bought two of their singles Balloon and I Want To Touch You due to them being very cheap in my local record shops[1]. At this point, the band was lumped in with the ‘shoegazing’ scene and were growing in reputation. By the time ‘Adam and Eve’ came out five years later, Catherine Wheel’s sound had moved on quite drastically.

Their third album ‘Happy Days’, released in 1995, was altogether louder and heavier than their previous work. This bigger sound was developed further for their next offering which I rate as a masterpiece, one of the best albums of the 90s. There was nothing scenesterish about ‘Adam and Eve’, it was a proper bonafide rock epic.

It was also rather bold in its tracklisting. The traditional big, catchy opening song was eschewed in favour of a short untitled acoustic intro track, followed by the slow-burner that was Future Boy. This was not the Catherine Wheel of previous albums; it was more like something Pink Floyd might have put out. Of course, the louder, upbeat numbers were present and correct – lead single Delicious is where it really gets going (and a dead good song it is, too), the sneering giant that is Broken Nose harked back to ‘Happy Days’, while Satellite really ought to have been put out as a single, especially in the US where it could have catapulted Catherine Wheel to superstardom. In fact, Catherine Wheel had more success in the States than they did in their UK homeland, but never quite broke through to the mainstream. Had they done so, who knows how far they could have gone.

The very best songs on the record though are the biggest, most anthemic, but equally most textured ones. Here Comes The Fat Controller is big, big, big; Goodbye is big, big, bigger, as brash and bold as Catherine Wheel ever got. Phantom Of The American Mother was more restrained and emotional, but didn’t lack a punch. The absolute highlight though really has to be Ma Solituda, a gorgeous tender moment amongst the maelstrom of guitars turned up to 11. A real torch song, it was released as the second single from the album and peaked at a lowly 53. It remains a tragedy how Ma Solituda was practically ignored by media and public alike, something I haven’t forgiven them for to this day.

Overall though, ‘Adam and Eve’ works as a whole; it’s a proper album rather than just a collection of songs. It’s not a concept album, but it does feel cohesive and well thought out. It really should have fared much better commercially and gone on to establish Catherine Wheel as one of the UK’s foremost rock bands. Sadly, its follow-up ‘Wishville’ took three years to materialise and while it contained some strong material, it couldn’t compare to the magnum opus that was ‘Adam and Eve’; reviews were poor, sales were poorer and the band effectively split shortly after its release.[2]

While many others point to the band’s first two albums ‘Ferment’ and ‘Chrome’ as being their finest works, I always come back to ‘Adam and Eve’ as it has all I want in a rock album – great songs, a good strong sound, a mixture of moods and a hint of unpredictability, even after nearly 20 years. And it sounds even better turned up to 11.

[1] This was because of the way record companies would hype their products into the charts – practically giving them away to stores to sell for 50p or a quid. Known as loss-leaders, the idea of it is that it was likely the singles would sell more and the chart position would be higher leading to more radio play. This in turn would generate more interest in the album. It didn’t always work, but it was a ploy used for many years. I loved it of course as it meant I could afford to buy more records!
[2] Officially, Catherine Wheel is on ‘hiatus’, but since their supposedly temporary disbandment in 2000, they haven’t performed as a unit, either in the studio or live.


  1. Adam & Eve is a great album and Catherine Wheel was a great antidote to Britpop to me. But there is something really special about Ferment and the song Black Metallic flies miles above so much that was being released at the time. Yes they "fit" into the shoegaze a point, but as you have pointed out, they had a strength in their sound that just made you want to play it louder and louder. Black Metallic can envelope you, cancel out EVERYTHING around you when it plays. It's a really special song.

  2. Robster- I'm with you. This is a classic record to me and I could never figure out why it didn't click or resonate with others.
    I always felt that on Happys Days they were listening to the record label but for Adam and Eve they said - screw it - let's make the album we want to make. I love every second of this album. its a shame they never got the fame they deserved. Echorich - I agree Black Metallic is one of the best songs ever recorded.