It’s highly unlikely that Coldplay’s Chris Martin pays tribute to the songwriting skills and vocal essence of artist Rob Dickinson, the former lead singer and front man for Catherine Wheel, which formed back in 1990, 10 years before Martin began his trek to stardom. After the first listen to Colplay’s debut release Parachute and in subsequent albums, in this writer’s opinion, a fat royalty check should be in the mail to Mr. Dickinson.
Five years after Catherine Wheel disbanded (after label changes, frustration with record sales), Rob Dickinson is back. His website teases with rumors of “supermodels, vintage Porsches and a hush-hush business designing one-off cars for the well-heeled” but none of that matters now.
The tug and pull, from a fan’s perspective, is to want more Catherine Wheel-esque music while also respecting an artist’s desire to create something new, to expand in new directions and evolve, which should be expected anyway. Thankfully, Fresh Wine For The Horses, quenches both the past whiskey and current chaser cravings.
The aptly named “The Storm” crashes with chunky licks and heavy bass while “Handsome” scales the signature ride of subdued interludes that invade over the bridge into an immense chorus. The moon rises and the city subsides with quiet motion as a lonely violins glide to his “Bad Beauty” serenade; and the sounds of L.A.’s ocean and PCH traffic fade into the background when vapors of an “Us and Them” (Pink Floyd) intro guide lightly into a session of journal and pen.
When it comes to presentation, let’s just say that Rob Dickinson is one of those vocalists that could sing the phone book and still cause you to cry and make out with the stranger next to you at a show.
Where Dickinson has also stood apart has been with his deceptive talent for singing achingly beautiful lines that cut with a knife, all the way down your back. One such example is “Eat my dust / You insensitive fuck” off of the album Happy Days, when his focus was definitely outward, as was his previous material.
Nowadays the knife is more fit for butter as he reflects inwards lyrically and literally (take a look at the inside of the CD cover) while taking account of what and who surrounds him. “For so long / my mind was like a woe maker’s song / My mood was drained of dreams…From now on / My mood has changed my mood is strong,” off of “Towering and Flowering” is just one glimpse into the thoughts running through his brain.
After seeing Rob Dickinson’s recent performance at Friends during SXSW, and absorbing Fresh Wine for the Horses, it makes one immensely grateful for musicians of this caliber and their wonderful art called music. He has affected many in the past 16 or so years and will continue to do so for decades to come.