The original title, Crank, would have been apt. Producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Echo & the Bunnymen) was brought in to toughen this band's sound and set them apart from the wave of U.K. upstarts who were pounding U.S. shores. That he did. But it's not necessarily progress; Talk Talk's master experimentalist, Tim Friese-Greene, gave Catherine Wheel's brilliant debut, Ferment, a dripping beauty, opulent textures illuminating barely hidden firepower. On even the most angry, aggressive tracks, such as "Texture" and "Shallow," this shimmering, shuddering mist was still ever-present. Many of those glistening touches have indeed been subtracted by Norton, and they're missed. That Chrome is still a terrific LP proves Catherine Wheel capable of eclipsing the overload. Like another sharp LP that "cranked" for an hour without much sonic letup, Chrome reminds one of Sugar's Copper Blue. Not because Catherine Wheel covered Hüsker Dü on the 30 Century Man EP; it's because that was the last LP that combined this kind of songwriting prowess, raging playing, dynamics, pop tunes gone kablooey, and huge, bonfire sound. And unlike that toasty Sugar LP, this twin-guitar quartet knows how to bring it down: both the spindly single "Crank" and the resplendent "The Nude" seem almost tearful, they're so pretty through the thickness, and the knockout "Strange Fruit" is as fulsome as it is fierce. Rob Dickinson sings as if to choke on his words, yet never loses a gritty determination backed soundly by his and Brian Futter's guitars. Add in heavier versions of previous B-sides-that-deserved-better "Half Life" and "Ursa Major Space Station," and you've got a double play from a band too resolute to fall victim to sophomore slump wimp out, too talented to write half-baked tunes in two minutes, and too strong to glaze out in a shoegaze haze some pigeonholed them in after Ferment.
AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid