Posts Tagged ‘The Verve’

A List For The Ages

March 19, 2009

Rolling stone gathers no moss, but leaves a trail of busted stuff.

Dave Matthews Band

Busted Stuff

There has been a little game floating around Facebook for awhile.  It is in the same style as those many email forwards that once clogged up inboxes.  Essentially, you are supposed to create a list of 15 albums that had a profound effect on your life. Rather than join in the perpetuation of tagging on the social networking site, I decided to fulfill the challenge here on my blog.  The original post gives some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo explanation for how an album can deeply affect a person, but I’ve decided to base my decision on three criteria:

1) I must have listened to the album more than 20 times.

2) I must enjoy virtually every track on the album.

3) The album must have some kind of story attached to it.

I actually found these criteria very restrictive, which is good, considering I own over 300 albums. Now to the list:

1. Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence – This album followed me abroad on a wild 12 day adventure from Paris to Rome.  Whenever I listen to it now I flashback to the many plane and bus rides, the horrible pink eye, and a quiet sunset in Sorrento.  I suppose I should also mention the many hours I spent wearing a hamburger box on my head. Sounds of Silencecaptures a band on the rise, just about to explode into the consciousness of an era. It is a musical masterpiece.

2. Coldplay – Parachutes – I came to be a Coldplay fan just a little bit later than most of my friends.  I really got into them about a year after Yellow flew up the charts.  I think i was too distracted by Radiohead to really appreciate this emerging group.  It makes the list because of the many cover versions of Don’t Panic that Dave and I shared while at St. Jerome’s.

3. Genesis – We Can’t Dance – For me, this is the quintessential nostalgia piece.  Growing up my family would spend many of our weekends driving around the countryside, enjoying the scenery and ultimately grabbing a hot dog at some out of the way stand.  The tape deck would usually feature this album or one from of my mom’s Rod Stewart collection.  This is the one I still listen to.

4. Radiohead – Ok Computer – I have to admit I first got hold of this album through less than legal means.  My friend Darryl copied it on to tape for me when it first came out (I think I owned 1 CD at the time).  I instantly fell in love with the group and spent the next 5 years buying every piece of recorded Radiohead material that I could.  I still have some ridiculous singles that feature bizarre remixes from this era.  While I haven’t been as crazy about collecting their music since about 2002, I still love Radiohead.

5. Peter Gabriel – Passion – This is a bit of a surprise entry. I have always enjoyed a number of Peter Gabriel songs, but it is this soundtrack album that moves me the most.  It was recorded for a movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, which I have never seen.  I used to listen to it while playing Age of Empires II and also while studying.  It was the soundtrack to significant parts of my first two years of university. The middle eastern flair, and desert feel make it a nice change from what usually fills the air around me.

6. Death Cab For Cutie – Plans – This album was given to me as a gift, in the hopes that I would embrace more indie music. It succeeded as I am now a full on convert.  I have a strong emotional connection to several of the songs, for reasons I’d rather not get into.  But I will say this, Plans is the only record that has ever made me cry.

7. The Who – Who’s Next – Another bit of nostalgia for me.  Like many people I know I had a huge classic rock phase in high school.  No band epitomized that period more than The Who.  Thanks to my mom’s already robust collection I was able to dive right into their music. Who’s Next contains most of my favourite Who songs, and doesn’t love the lovely cover art.

8. Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – Tails – I truly fell in love with Lisa Loeb upon hearing her beautiful voice.  Fortunately, I’m a little beyond teenage crushes now.  The music, however, stands the test of time.  I will admit to being disappointed when I read that, although she was starring in a show dedicated to finding a boyfriend, she only dated guys over the age of 30. My personal favourite on this album is Snow Day, not only because my name is in it, but because of the line it’s a bad day, but you’re my medicine

9. Counting Crows – Live Across a Wire – I had to think long and hard about which Counting Crows album to include. They are all amazing and meet the first two criteria. So the tie had to be broken by the story associated with them.  Live Across a Wire makes it for a couple of reasons. The first is a girl named Shanna, who I absolutely adored during my first year of university. Although I was far too awkward to do anything about my feelings, we did share a passion for music. She adored the version of Angel of the Silences found on the MTV Storytellers portion of this disc, and for some reason, I still remember that. I suppose the second reason I chose this album is that I have been to three Counting Crows concerts and I count each among the most memorable nights of my life, for various reasons. From a magical night under the stars with friends, to being stuck in downtown Kitchener at 2am, to flying down the QEW ready to burst in anguish, it’s been a wild ride.

10. Dave Matthews Band – Busted Stuff – Busted Stuff hit me at just the perfect time. The summer it came out I was working at a Seniors home doing a lot of outdoor maintenance.  My coworker and I alternated music choices from day to day. On her days we listened to Eminem and Our Lady Peace. On my days it was Counting Crows and Dave Matthews. This album became the soundtrack to that entire crazy summer. We worked for two men, Atilla from Hungary, and Tony from El Salvador.  Their seemingly endless feud and crazy stories made the absolutely dreadful work seem tolerable.

11. Wide Mouth Mason – Wide Mouth Mason – I have already written an entire entry on this album. I’ll direct you there for more information about it’s inclusion here.

12. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois – Sufjan Stevens  epic attempt to record albums about each state is impressive.  This particular effort blew me away the first time I heard it.  He has a way of creating a surreal landscape in his songs that feels very comfortable to be in. I particularly love the remix of Chicago on the version I bought, but for maximum creepiness check out John Wayne Gacy, Jr. 

13. u2 – War – Much like Dave, I would be remiss to leave U2 off of this list.  Although I was hard on their new album I still love the old stuff.  I find that War among all the others represents the pure unbridled passion of the band, and catches them right before they became the world’s biggest band with The Joshua Tree.  War particularly brings me back to my university days.  During Winter exams (April) the weather starts to turn.  The snow melts and the sun warms people and places alike. There is a special feeling in the air when that happens.  There is also the anticipation of the summertime and freedom from school work. I will always associate this album with those feelings.

14. David Gray – White Ladder – David Gray essentially changed my life at the beginning of second year.  Or perhaps I should say that my life changed and his music was there. I embarked on a bizarre and often painful 3 year journey at that point. It dominated the rest of my undergraduate career and helped make me the person I was, and some of what I am today.  In the space of two months I purchased all of his albums and essentially memorized every song in his catalogue. Now that is devotion. 

15. The Verve – Urban Hymns – Originally, I wasn’t going to include this album.  I had some other ideas of ones that fit better or had more ideal stories.  But I was drawn back by the story of a band who was robbed of royalties by an unscrupulous man, and the life of Richard Ashcroft who went from the highest of highs, to the humbling experience of being almost forgotten.  This album is itself a modern wonder.  I don’t think you’ll find another recording like it anywhere.  Although they are considered one hit wonders in North America, The Verve will always be stars in my heart.

This has been a lot of fun. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the albums above, or any that have really moved you.

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I See Houses

December 21, 2008

So these are my crimes.

The Verve

Numbness

Before I break into Part II of my review of Forth I wanted to relay a story.  The NHL Network is showing the Buffalo-LA game from the other night.  The Kings broadcaster had a between periods segment on Jason Pominville’s blog.  Only when they showed him typing with text overlayed on the screen it had a big underlined typo. Don’t you think they could get a better shot? It also appears that he has someone else type it for him.

Nubmness starts out sounding like a Modest Mouse song.  It’s sad that this album came out only 4 months ago and it already seems to have disappeared from people’s radar.  Numbness on my brain… This song has a highly enjoyable bass line. Once again though the vocal is unintelligible to me.  He could be singing about anything. I do love the random guitar parts that sweep in and out of earshot.  Or in the case of one part, sweep across the stereo spectrum.

The next song contains a literal description of what I can only guess is Richard Ashcroft’s neighbourhood back home.  I See Houses is both the title and the first line.  This song makes extensive use of a string part.  There is also a fair amount of piano in here. I once again wonder aloud how much a band that goes 10 years between albums is affected by the changing currents of music.  To me this album sounds like it could’ve come out in 1999 and I wouldn’t have been surprised. It’s a fairly logical successor to Urban Hymns. I won’t be late, won’t be late, no. The piano is fantastic.  It’s understated and simple but it suits the repetitive nature of the song perfectly and gives a nice underpinning to the rest of that instrumental parts of the song.

Noise Epic is the appropriately named next song. It clocks in at a healthy 8:14, making it the longest song on an album of long songs.  The guitar effects in this song and many others remind me of The Matthew Good Band, and the sorts of tones they used on their three big albums.  Noise Epic features a driving bass line and a talking almost white rapping part. But it’s still mostly talking. I like it.  Once again though it is somewhat buried (intentionally) in the mix so it’s not 100% clear what he’s saying. It does seem like they are using American imagery in the song. At the midpoint the song starts to slow down and build up all at once.  I wonder where we are headed here.  The drums kick back in and I can envision a Jimi Hendrix style jam session. Is it 1970? Maybe. But this is still definitely The Verve. Overall I really enjoy this song in spite of it’s obscene length.  I especially love that there are two false endings.  The final minute and a half of Noise Epic is the most hard rocking part of the entire album. I got spirit…Wake up wake up wake up wake up…ironic after a long song.

From the longest to the shortest.  Valium Skies is the only song under 5 minutes on the entire album.  The dedication to such complex layering is admirable.  Every moment it seems as if 10 things are happening that I can’t hear on top of everything I can.  She’s got the things I need, yea the air I breath. This is a top 3 song for me.  It’s a regular old love song with more sweeping guitar effects.  I think this song would be as nice on an acoustic guitar.  I think that’s how a love song should be. If it can be stripped down to one instrument and one voice and still be beautiful, then it’s a winner.  And when it comes to my valium skies, she don’t mind if I cry…

Columbo was a favourite tv show of mine growing up.  I’m anxious to figure out if this song is actually about the famed detective. Especially since Peter Falk just passed away last week.  If you aren’t sure who I am talking about, maybe you know him as the Grandpa in The Princess Bride. This song would’ve made an ultra-hip theme song for the show.  Some people have compared this song to Lovesong by The Cure. I can see some of the similarities.  It might be similar to the way that Smells Like Teen Spirit is Louie Louie. Similar rhythmic setup, but with enough of The Verve to separate it. I can see what people are saying though.

The very final track is Appalachian Springs. To me, if a group is at all interested in creating a dynamic album they should be concerned with how they leave the audience. How does the last song wrap things up?  This song is an Urban Hymns style ballad along the lines of Lucky Man. Cause solitude, sacred mood, Appalachian springs, all my things, took a step to the left, took a  step to the right, saw myself, and I wasn’t quite right. I think it’s a nice trip back for fans of the band. It doesn’t seem to point to their future direction, but this whole album has been a hybrid of their early and later work.  I’m not sure where The Verve will go from here. Maybe they can keep standing still.

My final verdict on the album has a couple of parts. First, if you like The Verve for more than just Bittersweet Symphony, then you should already own this album. It has all the elements that made you a fan in the first place.  If you aren’t familiar with their work, and are a fan of bands like Radiohead, Coldplay, Blur, Oasis, or really any British rock of the 90’s then I’d recommend checking out the singles, previewing the songs online, and giving them a chance. You’ll likely be very satisfied. For everyone else, maybe youshould try to. This album won’t blow anyone away, but it is an enjoyable way to spend an hour and or so. Slipping in and out of the dreams…

Sit and Wonder

December 20, 2008

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.