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The Verve - This is Music

2006-03-29 20:23

verve: Energy and enthusiasm in the expression of ideas, especially in artistic performance or composition -

As their name suggests, The Verve make expansive, powerful music. Their music has plenty of gorgeous bleeding guitar (by Simon McCabe) and beautiful but tortured tunes that stick in your head.

The Verve weren't only good - they managed to be quite popular too, though only Urban Hymns (from which they've taken four of the tracks on this CD) had real mainstream international success.

This is Music is a collection of Verve singles released from the A Storm In Heaven, A Northern Soul and Urban Hymns albums. It's also designed to appeal to fans who already have their albums, by the inclusion of B sides and two previously unreleased tracks ("This could be my moment" and "Monte Carlo".)

The Verve broke up and reformed twice in a six year careen through the charts. Musically, they weren't much more stable - they started out experimental and ended up at number one on the charts. This is Music jumps from long wild rants like the opening title track, to the grim ballad "History", then takes another new tack with the breathy "Superstar". The track ordering isn't really chronological, so you're not really getting a sense of how the band developed. Does the noticeable variety in style matter?

Only to purists. Richard Ashcroft's pure but expressive vocals hold this varied collection of songs together, whether he's grimly soulful like Robert Smith, or mournfully rocking like Tom Yorke.

Ultimately, it's impossible to argue with songs as good as the ones this flawed but adored band has made. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" for one. Sometimes they sound disturbingly like other rock groups of their time, or get a bit mushy (like on "Sonnet"), but you just can't really argue with the way they took the structure and charm of British songwriting, opened it up and gave it real flair.

"The Drugs Don't Work" is the kind of song you hear once and never forget. It captures the pure dread of pain that can't be deferred: "Like a cat in a bag / waiting to drown / this time I'm coming down".

- Jean Barker

This collection is a magnificent introduction for newcomers, and an excellent chance to re-live the times for those of us who believed in The Verve's greatness and were there to experience it.
- Amir Arezoo for BBC

New fans ought to start with Urban Hymns and work their way back, and the arbitrary track order here serves no one. But the songs' quality remains undeniable, and a greatest-hits disc is better than no Verve at all-- at least until Ashcroft writes the final chapter with a "Behind the Music"-inspired reunion tour.
- Marc Hogan for Pitchforkmedia

Fans of bands like REM, Radiohead, Placebo, Coldplay, U2 and others that wash their pain down with loud, melodic, electronically advanced rock will have no trouble falling head over heels for The Verve.


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