Sit and Wonder

No bed of roses, her cheeks like peaches, I ain’t gonna wait no more, oh give me some light.

The Verve

Sit and Wonder

Music can feel different depending on the time of day you are listening.  I have decided to do a proper review of an album that is now a few months old but is still fresh in my mind.  That is, Forth by The Verve.  Now most of you will be familiar with the group through their hit single Bittersweet Symphony. In fact, in North America they are often considered a one hit wonder. In the UK, however, they were quite popular and well known without Bittersweet Symphony. Among my friends they are also much more.  The band broke up a number of years ago, but, as many bands do, they reunited recently and put together a brand new album. The leader, Richard Ashcroft, remains a fine songwriter and musician.  My plan for this review is to follow the pattern established with the post on Wide Mouth Mason. Rather than simply giving an overall response and pointing out a few noteworthy tracks, I will go song by song. This will be in two parts with Part II coming tomorrow.

The album opens with my favourite song, Sit and Wonder.  I think The Verve distinguish themselves from similar bands by their blend of electric layering and rich melody.  This fact was more evident on Urban Hymns than on their latest release. I love the drums on this song because even though they share some modern drumming conventions, they are complex enough to enhance the song. This song is arguably more of a rock song than most of the band’s earlier work.  This is definitely the direction they are headed in.As is normal for The Verve there is a highly enjoyable breakdown section.  Something’s going on inside my (unintelligible). That’s me transcribing the lyrics.  The band was part of the shoegazing movement in Britain, though there music transcended it.  One of the hallmarks of shoegazing were vocal parts that were often impossible to make out clearly and served to suit the overall sonic texture more than the message of the song’s lyrics.  Although not considered shoegazers, Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke often muffles his words out of self-consciousness.

The album itself is only 10 songs, but each (save 1)  is over 5 minutes in length. This is a tradition for the band.

Next we run into Love is Noise . This song has a weird vocal part that runs through out.It sounds like it belongs on U2’s Zooropa album.  It must be difficult to go from being a band in the late 90’s to a band in 2008.  Musical tastes, particularly among The Verve’s fan base, must’ve changed a bit.  Love is Noise seems like a song that could sparkle live, even if it is merely average on the album. I actually think the first half of the strange vocal part would be amazing if it was song by a soulful female choir.  That would really pop out of this mix. I think this is one song that grows on you before it’s even over, one advantage of longer songs.

Rather Be starts out like a Robbie Williams song.  That is seriously the first thing that popped in my head. It could also be a Coldplay song. I wonder if that’s a coincidence? Of course if it was Coldplay the guitar would be louder.  Is there anywhere better than here? As much as this song is about losing a lover, I wonder if it is about losing the band?  After a somewhat successful solo run, Richard Ashcroft obviously decided that being in a band was a good spot for him.  This song has a background part that could be more effective with if it sat in the mix differently. It seems like this part, and the one in Love is Noise were recorded quickly without regard for how they should fit.  Still I like the song overall.  The missing guitar is stepping up a little bit now. I do, however, love how Ashcroft’s voice fits in.

I’m going to finish Part I with Judas then pick up the last 6 songs tomorrow (along with a final verdict). This song begins with a nice sonic journey. It’s the sort of song that makes me thing of driving on country highways, through the rocks and trees. Also of afternoons in Tobermory, up against the rocks, with the birds and spiders.  This is a very pretty song.  Like many Verve songs the vocals are sparse at times, and that suits their style of music.  For a dream to happen, you gotta let it go. There is a break down bit with a falsetto Gotta let it go repeated over and over. It reminds me of Flight of the Conchords. They usually do that for comic effect. It’s fun to listen for the many layers in these songs. It’s like diving deeper and deeper into the ocean to see what’s down there.

That’s all for today! Part II tomorrow.

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