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.