Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Verve

So back in 1994, I went to see the movie Nadja in a movie theater in Northampton, Massachusetts. Really didn't know what to expect, but I liked it. It had a bit of the style of Hal Hartley and a bit of the style of David Lynch but nothing too weird. It was a nice evocative and atmospheric movie about modern day vampires, starring the quite lovely Elina Lowensohn, an American actress of Romanian origin. But what really stayed with me as I exited the movie was the soundtrack, and in particular one scene in which the main character (Nadja) is talking about emotions, a scene that transitions seamlessly into a dance scene between the two lovers. Here is the moment before that transition, where you can hear the beginnings of a dreamy song:

In the background you hear this music and it seemed positively heavenly. I had no idea what it was. And in those pre-internet days, there was really no way to find out. I don't know exactly how but I began to suspect that the music that I wanted to identify was created by a band called the Verve. Fast-forward a year, to 1995, and I ended up buying the Verve's debut album, A Storm in Heaven. By that time, I had moved to Amherst and was living in the "white house," a lovely and strange house populated by a bunch of transient students but whose bedrock were our landlords Pat and Jacqueline.

It was here that I heard that album a thousand times: A Storm In Heaven completely blew my mind. It wasn't particularly original in any fundamental way: basically shoegazer music with the space-y elements maxed out, the rough edges (a la MBV) smoothed out, and fueled by atmospheric guitar courtesy of the Verve's incredibly talented guitarist Nick McCabe. Yet, from the first song to the last, the album felt like a bit of a journey, perfect for late night (very late night) ruminations of twenty-somethings from an inbetween generation. I present here the first and second perfect tracks that set off the album. Just brilliant stuff. This is without par one of the greatest opening album tracks for a new band:

And the second part of the 1-2 punch goes into "Slide Away":

I bring these songs up because the Verve is re-releasing their first two (both wonderful) albums, A Storm in Heaven and A Northern Soul, as deluxe editions. More information here.

Neither of these two albums had the song that I so desperately wanted to identify, that soundtracked the movie Nadja. But I eventually found it, much later, in 1998 or 1999, I think! The song was "One Way To Go," the b-side of their very first single ("All In My Mind"). And when I finally heard the song in full, my expectations were fully justified in the sheer gorgeosity of the sound:


Meep said...

The first time I learnt about Richard Ashcroft was when "Alone with Everybody" came out. Absolutely entharalled by "A Song for the Lovers". I then went on to find out about "Bittersweet Symphony" and the rest of his work. What do you think of the whole malarkey with Bittersweet Symphony?

Did you like "Forth"?

What do you think of his solo albums?

Have you listened to Ashcroft's new album "These People"?
Ashcroft sounds so different to me. Most of the songs seem rather pedestrian. I really don't know what to make of it. I can't recall "United Nations of Sound" being any better either

spaceman said...

Yeah, I do remember 'Alone With Everybody' -- has it really been 15 years since that? There were some great songs on that (including "A Song for the Lovers").

I've always thought Ashcroft had a fantastic voice, perfect for a kind of melodic British pop. One of the best singers from Britain in the nineties.

About the whole controversy over "Bittersweet Symphony": I think it was a bit disingenuous of the Rolling Stones to claim authorship of that song. Sure, Ashcroft took a bit of the strings from a Stones-related track (not even actually Stones!) but the whole song was basically a Verve song.

I did like "Forth." Does that make me uncool? I actually even saw the band (I think) at Madison Square Garden when they toured behind "Forth." They were great.

I have not listened to Ashcroft's new album "These People" but what little I've heard was very disappointing. Very "pedestrian" as you say. Don't know what happened to him -- I think he has genuinely lost his muse. It's also sad that the Verve guitarist Nick McCabe has been selling off his equipment just to pay the bills. McCabe and Ashcroft had a huge falling out and I think McCabe got the short end of the stick.

ghostroad said...

Was just listening to them on a roadtrip over the last couple of days. Still sounds like the future, and like nothing else made since.

I've seen them referred to as the poor man's MBV, which doesn't do them any justice. At this point, I've heard "A Storm in Heaven" and "A Northern Soul" about 20 times more than "Loveless". While none of their later output matches these first two albums, I have to admit to being a big fan of the song "Love is Noise" (on "Forth").

Danielle and I have loved the Verve almost as long as we've known each other, and I think I know of them only because you mentioned them at one point.

Meep said...

Richard has been on Prozac apparently. I'm guessing depression and the meds has taken a toll. He seemed rather flat on interviews as well. Sad to see him this way. Would be nice to see him make a comeback