Ferment was the debut album of the little known or remembered grunge band Catherine Wheel. I had not heard of them until earlier this year. Even their bigger hits did not render with me the first time I heard them. But soon after I heard “Black Metallic” for the first time, I immediately started to look more into their work. Their sound would probably be best as a mix between grunge and shoegaze. Despite some high quality vocals, their sound was not completely accepted by mainstream audiences, could have something to do with the fact they were foreign. When discussing the great rock bands of the 90’s, hardly anybody mentions Catherine Wheel. This review is a small outcry against that, as this band and especially this album were truly great.
1. Texture (9/10)
While very few people would recognize this song if they heard it today, it is one of the best on the album in my opinion. An excellent start to Ferment, the song has many complex and fast-paced guitar riffs. They pair well with the lyrics in the chorus. It’s a song that serves as a great preview of what you’re in for for the rest of the album.
2. I Want to Touch You (8.5/10)
This a track that did receive some radio play and did make a mark on some of the charts. While it’s certainly not my personal favorite, it’s still a solid song. Catherine Wheel would go on to make a similar but better sounding medium paced song called “Crank” on their next album. I would suggest listening to them back to back and making the final decision on which is better, although they are both very good.
3. Black Metallic (10/10)
If you had heard anything from this band, this would most likely be it. This song did receive a significant amount of radio play back in ’92. It reached as high as #9 on the billboard charts. Right from the beginning, an atmospheric , semi-fuzzy guitar riff kicks in. The vocalist Rob Dickinson unique voice takes over shortly after that. It’s hard for me to accurately describe it to you. It’s certainly deep but has another indescribable quality to it that you just have to listen to for yourself. The chorus is very simple but straight-forward and effective. There’s a lengthy guitar solo and one final chorus that completes the song. It ends up being quite the journey.
4. Indigo is Blue (9.5/10)
This is a song I can almost assure you you haven’t heard yet. You’ll be glad you did after listening to the video posted below. In my opinion, it’s just as big as “Black Metallic”. This one just doesn’t appeal to the masses as much. My guess is because of the almost odd sounding vocals throughout. Dickinson’s accent really sticks out in this one, especially in the chorus. Aside from that small flaw, the song is dope. Very deep, almost ambient at times. Like the track before it, it features an awesome, but much more condensed guitar solo. It builds up the whole time until the concluding chorus which puts the finishing touches on it perfectly.
5. She’s My Friend (8/10)
A nice, medium paced track. It’s an angsty sounding track that is laid back at the same time, kind of a loked out Soundgarden song.
6. Shallow (8.5/10)
For whatever reason, this song really sticks out to me. Not just because it sounds different than the rest of the songs on the album (even though it still contains that lackadaisical shoegaze sound that I like from Catherine Wheel ), it’s probably because of the lyrics. Upon reading them, I have zero idea what this song is about. See for yourself. But that’s never stopped me from enjoying a song. When it comes to appreciating something, especially art/music, you don’t have to know everything about it and it doesn’t need to have a complete meaning. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something for what you see it as and nothing more.
7. Ferment (6.5/10)
Well it’s time for the obligatory slow song to make an appearance on the album. I’m glad that it took all the way until song 7 before it happened. Now I realize that not every rock song needs to be medium or fast paced to be good, but this one is WAY too slow for my liking. Despite it picking up in a hurry and getting intense at the 3:35 mark, it’s not a song I would go out of my way to hear.
8.Flower to Hide (7/10)
Starts out very progressively. It eventually builds up to a slightly disappointing chorus. There’s a rather quirky guitar solo but other than that, not much else noteworthy.
9. Tumble Down (6/10)
Again, it appears the album is starting to falter down the stretch. Filler song, tries to recycle a riff from “Texture” but fails to deliver on the near the same level.
10. Bill and Ben (6/10)
Sporadic, has some good rock elements to it but they don’t really come together as a whole very well.
11. Salt (6.5/10)
Catchy guitar riff at the intro. The song sputters after that. The instrumentals remain good throughout, but like the previous track, they aren’t able to muster up much of a final product.
12. Balloon (8/10)
This is a worthy closing track. No one part really sticks out other than the Bah, Bah-Bah, Bah’s that occur during some crunchy guitar riffs. It incorporates many good 90’s grunge elements and works as a short yet effective final song on a stellar album by Catherine Wheel.