Perhaps it’s the unsettling way those squalling guitars rip and roar through fuzzy, claustrophobic arrangements. Or maybe it’s frontman Rob Dickinson’s pained vocal expression as he groans prickly two-liners like “Won’t it make me ill?/ The way you make me feel.” Whatever the giveaway, one gets the feeling that these Happy Days haven’t lifted this British foursome’s spirits.
Although angst is nothing new to alternative rock—where would Pearl Jam be without it?—Catherine Wheel makes it gorgeous as well as purifying. On this, their third album, the band tones down its head-on assault for some tender moments on tunes like “Heal” and “Shocking,” while they back up the scathing sentiment of “Eat My Dust You Insensitive F—-” with a surprisingly lovely lullaby of a melody. But if you favor amped-up rage over beauty, crank “Waydown.” It sounds like a tense nervous headache, but it’s catchy enough to send Catherine Wheel rolling right up the charts. (Mercury)