Patient. This guy must be patient. How long has Rob Dickinson been sitting on songs of such enormity and magnificence as "My Name Is Love", "Oceans" and "The Night"? I mean really, come on... Where has he been for the five years since his ground-breaking band The Catherine Wheel stopped making records? What on earth has he been doing and why has he chosen this moment to re-emerge? The answers, as we shall see, might prove elusive. The curious world of Mr. Dickinson, unfolds.
Raised in Norfolk, England, the son of two school teachers, Dickinson was a slow learning child who grew up happily enough in a sleepy town next to the sea. He went to school, he went to University, he designed cars and then he formed one of the most range roaming, viscerally intense rock bands of the nineties.
The Catherine Wheel was a cool band. In Rob Dickinson they possessed a songwriter and lyricist of rare and sometimes audacious talent. "…..eat my dust you insensitive fuck" purred Dickinson on 1994's Happy Days his scalpel sharp understatement having grown from the flickering of the bands '92 breakthrough, the feedback soaked "Black Metallic" ["it's "Like A Hurricane" for the nineties" drooled NME] This song in particular heralded Dickinson’s talent as a tunesmith of unusual passion and intensity. Through constant evolution and a steadfast refusal to repeat themselves, Catherine Wheel grew into a swaggeringly assured, devastatingly effective scene setter of a band.
Criminally overlooked, [Rolling Stone famously sub-editing the review of the band's 1997 masterwork, Adam and Eve, down from 4 and a half stars to 3 and a half], never was a band so influential and yet so invisible. They quietly unleashed 6 brilliant albums all an artistic development of the last and all reflecting a musical force that could crush any band that dared share a stage - ask Radiohead or The Smashing Pumpkins about that.
And then? Nothing. The band vanished. No word, no explanation, no fanfare, no farewell, no best wishes, no 'best of'. Nothing. A band stopped. " People were no longer paying attention. Going out with a bang seemed a little inappropriate," says Dickinson dryly. "I'm not bitter about the band's modest success. I view that time as an apprenticeship. Huge success would have killed me anyway at that time in my life. It was a time when I was free to experiment and was encouraged to be 'an artist'. I consider myself lucky to have been blessed with such an opportunity."
And what of the band’s legacy? "I'm proud we expended no energy in defining ourselves, we did what we pleased and we were who we were." Like I said, The Catherine Wheel was a cool band.
So, what’s been going on for five years? Tales of another life in New York or LA, supermodels, vintage Porsches, rumors of depression, a hush hush business designing one-off cars for the well heeled, even shepherding in the French Pyrenees, all remain unconfirmed yet un-denied. Dickinson it seems is a complicated man. What he has very definitely been doing is writing songs. Whatever merit his past with the band may confer on him, Dickinson's inevitable stardom would appear to be as a solo artist with a breathtaking new collection of music celebrating the extremes of the human spirit. If ever a slice of modern rock music deserved the adjective 'deep', Fresh Wine for the Horses is it.
From a conversation with Venus on "My Name Is Love" to the whimsical heartbreak of "Oceans" - "as far as I can tell, you already bare the scars of love" to the confessional despair of "Bad Beauty" – "upon my shirt, the dirty work, of tunnels through my dreams" to the emotional highs of "Towering and Flowering" and dark magnificence of "‘The Night," Dickinson's Fresh Wine for The Horses bristles with beauty, wit, power and romance but still keeps its manly charm. And all of it held together with sincerity in both delivery and thought that is rare in these post modern times.
"As a listener you have to believe it, don't you?" says Dickinson, "otherwise you never feel it. For me, music becomes interesting when it's truly revealing and I believe it – which of course means you gotta be sincere. We can all spot a fraud a mile off. You have to tell it like it is and trust that others will connect with it. The thing is, you just have to wait until you have something to say and that's the hard part; waiting and that’s most people's problem. We all wanna rock and we’re all impatient; the result usually being another shite record."
Does that explain the long wait? "These songs span a wide timeframe during which I learned some new ideas and a few home truths. It's a personal record. It's about surrounding yourself with good souls – people from whom you can learn. The song "Intelligent People" is about that. I was living in downtown New York on September 11th and the song "Bad Beauty" was born of that experience. This record is about recognizing and accepting the sometimes, ugly truth. It's about love, devotion, and enlightenment. It's taken me five years and they've been five years well spent. The time for this record is now and the time for me is now."
In 1976 the lead singer of a great band left to pursue a solo career transforming himself as a songwriter and performer. There seem certain parallels between Rob Dickinson and Peter Gabriel whether it be their quintessential Englishness, the lush musical landscapes in which they roam or the quality of the bands they once steered. Whatever the similarities, Fresh Wine for the Horses is destined to make an emotional impact.