Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

See You In The Next One

Completely out of the blue yesterday morning and probably of interest mainly to people of my particular age and musical taste demographic was the news that The Verve were reuniting for shows in the UK this Fall and a new record for next year. My first reaction? Excitement. The Verve were one of the first bands whose heyday I got to experience in real-time, albeit only at the tail end with Urban Hymns, rather than as a back catalog discovery, and were crucial in bridging my musical tastes from straight-ahead Britpop to trippier, more psychedelic realms and my current shoegazing proclivities.

They were also, I think, the first band I cared about that I got to see implode. I had vague ideas of going to see them in 1997 in Hamilton before guitarist Nick McCabe suddenly quit the band and was replaced by pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole (sidebar – I think the move to add Cole was inspired. There’s no guitarist who could have replaced Nick directly, but by going in a totally different direction they added a completely new texture that deflected comparisons and also, theoretically, sounded great. I’ve never heard recordings from Cole’s tenure – I’m just guessing). From that point, it was just a matter of waiting for the inevitable though they did wait till 1999 before officially announcing the band’s dissolution. McCabe had quit before, during the A Northern Soul era, and all respect to his then-replacement Simon Tong (who’s not part of this reunion) but without McCabe and his otherworldy guitarwork, it wasn’t The Verve and not continuing on as if they were was really for the best.

Chalk it up to that distinctly British phenomenon of a singer and guitarist whose chemistry makes them so much more than the sum of their parts, but also so volatile. Bowie/Ronson, Morrissey/Marr, Anderson/Butler, Brown/Squire, Albarn/Coxon, and that’s just off the top of my head. It makes for some brilliant music but after the inevitable interpersonal blowout, rarely do either parties achieve the same creative heights again. So consider McCabe – who has been almost completely dormant over the past decade (a couple of guest appearances notwithstanding) and Ashcroft, who got clean, discovered the joys (and paycheques) of toothless, MOR soft rock and is a long time removed from earning the nickname of “Mad Richard”. Is there really any reason to think that they can recapture the energy and chemistry of over a decade past? Is the fact that everyone (presumably) gets along now a positive sign or a warning of impending disappointment? Surely the interpersonal friction was a critical element of their magic? I have visions (nightmares) of this new album consisting of mid-tempo piano ballads, less a storm in heaven than a touch of fog in the suburbs… But this is happening whether I approve or not, will sell craploads of concert tickets and make everyone lots and lots of money. But maybe I’m just being cynical – after all, they do say they’re “getting back together for the joy of the music” and who am I to contradict?

So yes, after the initial shock and excitement of the announcement, emotions have settled down to mostly a state of wariness and trepidation. But as I listen to A Northern Soul for the first time in ages, as I download the Urban Hymns demos that I Am Fuel, You Are Friends has on offer and consider dusting off the guitar to jam along with “Catching The Butterfly”… yeah, okay. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Video: The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony” (YouTube)
Video: The Verve – “The Drugs Don’t Work” (YouTube)
Video: The Verve – “Lucky Man” (YouTube)
Video: The Verve – “Sonnet” (YouTube)
Video: The Verve – “History” (WMV)
Video: The Verve – “All In The Mind” (YouTube)
MySpace: The Verve

The AV Club gets Kele Okereke of Bloc Party to shuffle his iPod.

Chart has details on Calexico’s new instrumental record Tool Box, which will be available at shows and on their website and may well feature all the southwestern-sounding bits that were missing from Garden Ruin.

Filter offers first impressions of Rogue Wave’s forthcoming record Asleep at Heaven’s Gate, due out September 18.

Beach House discuss the direction of their second album with Pitchfork.

LullaByes has got the audio from Land Of Talk’s show in Dallas last week, a set chock full of new material. Via Largehearted Boy.

The Denver Post and Salt Lake City Weekly ask Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg to compare music and ornithology.

Filter has a conversation with Leonard Cohen.

Some more show announcements I missed in yesterday’s roundup, courtesy of Torontoist and For The Records – Liverpool’s Wombats, who I can only assume from their hair are the current band du jour across the pond, are at the Mod Club on August 11, The Black Lips will do damage to the Horseshoe on September 23 and The New Pornographers will be in town sometime around the third week of October – Beggars Canada’s tours page has the band playing on October 13 three different times in three different cities, but accounting for typos, it’s more likely they’ll be here around the 17th or 18th at the Phoenix on October 20th with Emma Pollock as support. The other question is will Dan and Neko still be with the band, as they will be for the already-announced September dates? Mysteries abound. Challengers is out August 21.

By : Frank Yang at 8:31 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Thierry says:

    In terms of guitarist/singer tension, let’s not forget Townshend/Daltrey, as well as the Davies and the Gallaghers…

    I know part of it is nostalgia, but I’m very excited and intrigued by this reunion (probably more than any of the other indie-approved reunions, such as Dino Jr., Slint, or even the Police & co.). After all, this is a band that split at the peak of its powers – not only was "Bittersweet Symphony" one of the defining singles of the 90s, but they never released a bad album and went out on what was, arguably, their finest, most consistently brilliant effort yet. Moreover, it’ll be nice to hear Nick McCabe’s intricate, melodically breathtaking guitar leads on ANY record.

  2. toni says:

    I am still in shock that they’ve reunited. I read the McCabe interviews on and while I think Richard is amazing, he did some horrible things to McCabe (well according to his version of the story).

    While I know everyone loves Urban Hymns, it really is their worst album and started Richard’s landslide into cheesy ballads. The b-sides to UH are mind blowing and about a million times better than that album (and UH IS a good album, it’s just not even close to A Northern Soul or A Storm in Heaven).

    I eagerly await their new music and hope that McCabe has a huge influence on its end product. Richard is an amazing at writing lyrics and knows how to express emotions very well, but once he got happy in his personal life, his music became sappy and very cheesy.
    Why does that happen? Happy musician = crappier music? I’m sure there are other artists out there who this has happened to.

  3. Frank says:

    agreed about UH – though the high points are spectacular, it’s not that good an album as a whole, not a patch on Northern Soul. If I recall, McCabe only rejoined partway through the record’s recording and he doesn’t play on all of it. Just the good parts…

  4. information leafblower says:

    First of all, that is one of my fave photos of the band. Just perfect.

    Secondly, when they added Cole, they became the greatest country band in the world. And I mean that sincerely.

    Urban Hymns was way too slick, I’d like to see them go back to their Northern Soul ragged glory.

  5. David Freeman says:

    dates for Emma Pollock/New Pornographers as follows:

    Emma Pollock (in support of The New Pornographers)
    October 11th – Edmonton Events Centre
    October 12th – Calgary MacEwan Ballroom
    October 13th – Calgary MacEwan Ballroom
    October 15th – Winnipeg Garrick Centre
    October 20th – Toronto Phoenix Concert Theatre
    October 21st – Montreal la Tulipe

    Thanks for the proofreading!

  6. toni says:

    I always say that A Northern Soul reminds me of the Fall. I can’t explain it, but it just emits that feeling and I can picture all the leaves changing colours. It is one of my favourite albums.

    I can’t remember when McCabe rejoined the band, but I do remember that it was Feb. 1997 that they reunited for the first time, cause they toured NA that fall in small venues and it was a great tour.

    UH songs were great live, like Come On and the Rolling People (ok they’re great on the album, in fact Rolling People goes all the way back to the early 90’s and at one point was called "electric boogaloo" i have the concert on tape somewhere)

  7. dB says:

    Greetings. First time, somewhat longtime (I became aware of the site while googling Jarvis Cocker when learning his solo album was set to drop in the UK).

    Anyway, I guess I’ll pluck down the lone "A Storm in Heaven" vote as their finest hour…but I agree with Frank that Urban was the lesser of their proper albums. Had I been asked a few years ago on the least likely reunions this one may have been up there with The Smiths, Dead Kennedys, and perhaps Ride. With Jesus & Mary Chain, Echo, Go Betweens, Wedding Present, Pogues, Stooges, Dino Jr, et al getting back together over the last few years, and inklings of a My Bloody Valentine reformation, I guess you can never say never anymore. Here is hoping the members of Slowdive are taking note.

  8. Tug says:

    My musical journey was pretty much just like yours. Britpop, psych, then onto my current shoegazey faze. It’ll at least be interesting to see The Verve back together. I certainly wouldn’t mind being in a crowd when they close with ‘Drugs Don’t Work.’

  9. tyler says:

    the wombats: strangely enough, from what i’m aware of, they’ve been more or less ignored in the uk. they took japan first… ;) the album was released months ago in japan. go figure. it’s actually quite good.

    as for verve: a storm in heaven was a let down after the singles. a nothern soul was phenomenal. anything beyond that was just a bit boring imho.

  10. tyler says:

    oh – just to clarify – it’s not that i didn’t like ‘a storm in heaven’. i think the production ruined it for me. i love john leckie, but it just didn’t work for me, other than a few tracks (‘blue’ comes to mind as one that definitely DOES sound fantastic).

  11. Thierry says:

    I agree that ASIH’s production is not John Leckie’s finest hour – although the songs themselves are very good, the whole thing has always sounded too tinny and muddled for my taste. As for Urban Hymns, I genuinely think it’s better than most of you remember and seems less consistent because the album tracks can’t help but pale in comparison to classic singles like "Bittersweet Symphony" or "The Drugs Don’t Work" (if anything, A Northern Soul is even less consistent – there’s a massive drop off after the first three songs, "A New Decade", "This Is Music" and "On Your Own", and the album only reaches such heights again with "History"). "Come on" and "The Rolling People" still sound like unstoppable juggernauts, as big and grandiose as rock can get.

  12. Roland says:

    Wow, Emma and the New Pornos; you Canadians are in for a real treat!

  13. wendy says:

    I saw the Wombats in Austin at SxSW this year…they have that "naughty British schoolboy" vibe I so love… pretty great, I thought.

  14. Lisa Veronese says:

    Very cool about the Verve. I remember seeing them on Lollapalloza SECOND STAGE!!! in 1994. Friends of mine insisted we check them out because there was a little bit of buzz. It was a crazy show. And Richard Ashcroft was a really scary shade of green. And See You In The Next One remains to be one of my favourite tracks ever by anyone. It gives me chills. I can totally identify with your musical transformation!