Back in the early 1990s ‘The’ Verve were still called Verve, the Charlatans didn’t have a UK tacked onto the end of them and Suede still sucked the big one.
Pardon me for sounding monotonous but Verve were further proof that the old ‘the early EPs were great but the later work is like drinking paint stripper’ theory is a valid one. Until proven otherwise of course.
Verve started off as a freewheeling, psychedelic, dual guitar and dub influenced, sixties-sounding stoner epic outfit. Then they released ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, changed their name to The Verve and began hitting up the middle of the road (in no particular order).
Their first three releases, however, showcased a different band entirely. ‘All in the Mind’ was a banging single. ‘She’s a Superstar’ was also a single but because of its length (both it and b-side ‘Feel’ clock in at around 10 minutes) should really be considered an EP.
‘Gravity Grave’ was perhaps their weirdest single ever, a track that was also about 10 minutes long. It was included on the Verve EP, which also featured an extended mix of the song recorded live at Glastonbury.
The Verve EP also featured my favourite Verve track of all time: ‘A Man Called Sun’, a spacey odyssey featuring some excellent noodling from guitarist Nick McCabe, cavernous echoes and a drum beat so slow it was probably on smack.
Together these releases summed up a band that seemed to have no idea what was going on in the world around them. And they seemed perfectly fine with that.
Then, in 1993, they dropped A Storm in Heaven, a totally bodacious album’s worth of deep grooves and psychedelics.
Truth be told, I am not sure the world was ready for Verve’s early work, which projected a worldview in which everyone was ‘high’, or ‘already there’, like, all the time.
The music itself was not so different to a lot of other bands but by 1994 it was sounding a little out of place. This is why I consider Verve to be one of the 10 greatest UK indie bands of the early 1990s.
It’s a real shame that ‘The’ Verve then went on to become such poseurs. Don’t even talk to me about the Richard Ashcroft solo experience.
But truthfully, I think the reason why I have such a soft spot for Verve’s early EPs is the fact that they remind me of the girl I was seeing at the time. She’d been to England and came home with a tape of Verve songs that proved excellent background music for smoking weed and pashing.
Unfortunately, part of the tape was erased by her previous boyfriend, who somehow pressed the wrong button on the car stereo one day, or so I’m told.
I can still hear the sound of car park noise, a kind of ‘Oh shit!’ exclamation, and then a return to the swirling, dreamy music. I don’t think she ever forgave him for that.
But who am I to talk? We also broke up, most likely due to some asshat behaviour on my part.
I’ve still got a dubbed copy of that cassette tape and managed to work the fact into the ending of a poem I recently wrote:
I made sure to dub your tape of early Verve‘Pixie’ (2004, unpublished)
second-hand memories are all I deserve