Songs For Bongs

It's likely that most rock enthusiasts know England's Catherine Wheel — if they know the band at all — for their sprawling epic "Black Metallic," from their 1992 debut, Ferment. In the eight years since that album's release, the band has perfected the art of stretching the tortured bliss of "Black Metallic" into cohesive statements in sound, headphone-friendly collections of milky, emotive vocals, strangled/plucked/watery guitars, booming basslines, cello, vibraphone, organ, harmonica, thumb piano and glockenspiel that reward with every new listen. For Catherine Wheel, the perfect record is not one of sing-alongs but of unhinged textures.

Wishville is seamless, expansive and full of go-nowhere moments. The languid "Mad Dog" wades endlessly in woozy ambience. "Sparks Are Gonna Fly" (RealAudio excerpt), a one-chord, John Lee Hooker-style stomp with relentless wahwah-spraying guitar, is a test in abrasive, tonal monotony.

The only real verse-chorus statement is "What We Want to Believe In" (RealAudio excerpt), which is every bit as anthemic as its title promises, with airy falsetto backups, a soaring-in-marshmallow-clouds chorus, and a fist-pumping, low-register guitar figure that starts off each verse. Its melody actually manages to lodge in your head, making it stick out from the miasma like a sore thumb.

Perhaps this isn't the perfect Catherine Wheel album, after all. But it's close, so close.