CD Review of Fresh Wine For The Horses by Rob Dickinson
Rob Dickinson:
Fresh Wine For The Horses

Reviewed by David Medsker


an, did the Catherine Wheel get a raw deal. They hit the scene post-Manchester with the killer one-two punch of Ferment (1992) and Chrome (1993), and despite melodic but rockin’ songs like “Black Metallic” and “Show Me Mary,” they weren’t able to find a home in a modern rock radio climate that was frankly tailor made for them. The lack of attention clearly got to them, despite their formidable catalog, and the band is now on hiatus.

And they just may stay that way. The solo debut from CW singer and guitarist Rob Dickinson (yes, he’s related to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson; they’re cousins), Fresh Wine for the Horses, is a little more subdued than Catherine Wheel, but it’s packed with the same kind of sharp melodies that made Catherine Wheel stand out among the other guitar based bands. It also features Dickinson’s finest vocals to date, layered and luscious. And mad props for the album cover, a simple but striking image that’s a welcome sight in these why-bother-with-a-cover-everything’s-digital-anyway times.

He wastes no time bringing out the big guns; opening track “My Name Is Love” is his best shot at the brass ring, with an aching verse and a soaring three-part falsetto harmony in the chorus (simplistic lyric aside, try and get that “my naaaaaaaaaaaame is love” hook out of your head). “Handsome” is as close as it gets to Catherine Wheel, a soft-LOUD-soft rocker complete with yet another harmony-drenched falsetto chorus. Dickinson even throws in a quick cover of Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer,” and brings it back for a reprise.

Most of the material here, though, is mid-tempo balladry. “Oceans” is a gorgeous, string-kissed ballad (the Church’s Marty Wilson-Piper pitches in with a guitar solo), and its “what’s it gonna take to make you love me” line will land it a spot on mix discs the world over, if people still make those anymore. “Towering and Flowering” is like Sarah McLachlan crossed with Talk Talk, a moody, organic piece that positively reeks of heartache. Indeed, Talk Talk’s unofficial fifth member Tim Friese-Greene plays bass on the track, and while he only shows up on one other song, the influence of Talk Talk throughout the proceedings is palpable.

Comebacks are tough these days, especially for someone whose band never really that that big commercial breakthrough. The kids today have no use for the past, so guys like Dickinson have an uphill climb, to be sure. Still, if soft popsters like Keane can find a home on the radio, then there’s hope for Fresh Wine for the Horses.

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