Sound — 7
The shoegazing scene of the 1990s spawned the effects-laden soundscapes of bands like Slowdive, Lush, and Ride. While Catherine Wheel is frequently associated with this scene, their sound isn't quite what one would expect from a shoegazing band. While "Ferment" occasionally sees the band indulging in feedback-laden guitar work, the tracks lack the layered textures that defined the genre. Catherine Wheel shows themselves to be much more of a straightforward alt.-rock band, with guitarists Rob Dickinson and Brian Futter building driving rock 'n' roll rhythms laced with Stooges-like wah-wah abuse. Catherine Wheel's harsh, distorted guitars and pounding rhythm section makes them barely distinguishable from the alt-rock and britpop that would later sweep the music scene. All in all, "Ferment" has a fairly generic and accessible sound, but one that is done well.
Lyrics — 3
In compliance with the accessible sound of Catherine Wheel's debut, the lyrics found on "Ferment" maintain a very pop-like, radio-friendly structure. The lyrics are repetitive, with each song revolving around a chorus that is (without exception) it's own title. Dickinson's dull growl is painfully high in the mix, often undermining some of the more interesting guitar work on the album. His gruff, unchanging vocals seem entirely out of place in the ttempted ambience of the album and possibly constitute the most disappointing aspect of this album.
Overall Impression — 6
Sadly, Catherine Wheel's "Ferment" always paints the same picture: snarling vocals, twiddling lead guitar, loud, distorted rhythm guitar, with eighth-note basslines and pounding drums. Each song is virtually indistinguishable from the next. Though some tracks ("Ferment", "Shallow") do feature interesting ambient sections, they are usually undermined by Dickinson's completely inappropriate vocal style. The single "Black Metallic" stands out as one of the most layered songs on the album, though few other tracks share it's focus on ambience. The vocalist's simplistic, often comedically angst-ridden lyrics call to mind atl.-rock acts Pearl Jam and Oasis and often prevent the songs from being taken very seriously. One redeeming feature is Futter's intricate wah-wah abuse, which provides the sole interesting aspect of Catherine Wheel's music. On the first track of the album, Dickinson laments "You need to give me more texture". The feeling's mutual.