Catherine Wheel

Wishville (Columbia)

There's a part of Catherine Wheel that loves its guitars loud, fuzzy, and crunchy. The louder, fuzzier, and crunchier, in fact, the better. And yet amid the racket the British band creates, it's often difficult to uncover the center of the songs. Because if you ever did, you'd quickly realize there's very little keeping them together. This was the trick used on its big hits, "Black Metallic" and "Crank," back in the mid-'90s, when alt-rock still meant something. Catherine Wheel is still piling on the voluminous fuzz and crunch on its fifth album, Wishville, but the sham isn't as foolproof as it once was.

The three years between albums have been nearly an eternity for this band's brand of guitar rock. Things got all Korny in the meantime, and Catherine Wheel, which was pretty much played out last time around anyway, sounds insignificant in the new century. There's muscle to the nine songs here, and the whole thing checks in at an economical and welcomed 40 minutes. But the same churn and burn occupies those nine songs and 40 minutes, making the trip through Wishville both exhausting and unrewarding.

If Catherine Wheel took more time to develop the structure within the songs, rather than continuously feeding into the sonic overload of them, this wouldn't be quite the rambling guitarfest that it is. Then again, the marching rhythm that fuels the best thing here, "Sparks Are Gonna Fly," is so plodding that maybe no amount of fine tuning and buffering would make a difference. And now that Catherine Wheel is heavier than it was during its prime days, it comes off a bit desperate here.

Overall, though, Wishville is just a tedious listen. The creepy organ fills that run through the veins of "Crème Caramel" are a nice touch, as is the album's punchy mix. But the material -- as cryptic and sluggish as you'd expect from a band that once penned a song called "Judy Staring at the Sun" -- sucks out most of its pluses.