Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New album finished and ready to mix

Stand-out points from a fellow contributor:

They had the thing written and recorded in its entirety by early February
' and 'Its finished and ready to mix' coming from Si Jones. So I would say August or September is a fair guess at the minute, as it usually takes about 6 months to get a record out, due to all the record label 'red tape' etc. September would be ironic as its when Urban Hymns came out too. If it did get released in Sept then it would be able to do battle with Oasis' new record, which would be a laugh. I would imagine that the lack of news/interviews is a good thing.

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Although it happened less by design than through excess and interpersonal acrimony, the Verve never gave itself the time to become washed up.

Far from it, in fact. When the Wigan, England-bred quartet parted ways in 1999, it went out on the highest note of its short career, having finally attained the global rock stardom to which it had always behaved as if it was entitled with 1997's deserving mega-hit Urban Hymns.

It wasn't a bad spot to bow out, by any means, but the steady refinement of the Verve's epic Brit-pop sound – which evolved from the heady, narco-mystic psychedelia of 1993's A Storm in Heaven into the stadium-shaking populism of "Bittersweet Symphony" and "Lucky Man" in just four years – demonstrated over the band's three-album catalogue has always left admirers with a lingering sense of business perhaps unfinished.

The speed with which a new Verve album was completed once bandmates Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Simon Jones and Pete Salisbury decreed last October that, yes, there would indeed be a new Verve album suggests there's some substance to this thought. They had the thing written and recorded in its entirety by early February.

"The record's finished. It's ready to mix," said a hoarse Jones between back-to-back gigs in New York City earlier this week. "We didn't just wanna do the reunion-tour cliché thing. We wanted it to be fully formed, right from the start. We want a record, we want to be out there. We want to be a working band."

Crucial to the survival of this latest iteration of the Verve – its third, for scorekeeping's sake, since the oft-abrasive relationship between front man Ashcroft and guitarist McCabe prompted another, briefer break-up between 1995's A Northern Soul and Urban Hymns – will be keeping the workload (and its attendant, non-musical distractions) to a manageable level.

Nothing short of world domination was the goal from the moment the four teenaged school chums formed the band in 1989, said Jones, but when the full weight of rock stardom landed on the Verve's shoulders after Urban Hymns, it "buckled."

"We burned ourselves out, basically," he said. "We wanted a massive record, we wanted to be a big band, but I think it took us by surprise the amount of pressure that comes with that when it actually happens. So we kind of imploded.

"You have all these dreams and ideas about what it's like, but when you get a successful record like that, it's just non-stop, the amount of promotion and interviews and videos. It's never-ending, really. When Urban Hymns came out, we were looking at two years on the road and we just weren't made for that. This time, we have to learn from our mistakes of overwork and keep this thing together by being a bit more in control of our destiny."

The tour that ushers the Verve into the Ricoh Coliseum tonight thus comes amidst a short run of "select" North American dates tied to the group's well-received performance at the Coachella Festival last weekend. More will come when the as-yet-untitled new album surfaces in August, but the band has no intention of running itself into an early grave to support it.

One must always take a rock 'n' roller's claims that his latest record is his "best yet" with a grain of salt. But when you're dealing with a band as staunchly self-important as the Verve – when Ashcroft brashly declared "This Is Music" on A Northern Soul, he believed it – there's room to grant Jones's enthusiasm some credence. Lord knows someone has to atone for Ashcroft's dismal solo records.

"Having been away for such a long time, when you come back to it, you've got that enthusiasm that you had when you were making your first records. And you can't get that back, really, when you're eight albums into your career or whatever," he said.

"So we've got an advantage here in that we've got this hunger again. I think we've just made the best record that we've ever made, without a shadow of a doubt, and I don't think we would have attempted to make a record if we didn't think we could surpass what we've done before. It's a true representation of this band and what we're about, and we're very proud of it."

Source: Today's Toronto Star, Ben Rayner