15 May 1993

NME: Swirls, Boys and Pretty Noise

Verve: A Storm In Heaven (Hut/All formats)

GOD HELP us if there were a war, ran joke, and all that stood between Britain and muscular hordes of 20th Century Visigoths were Verve - spindly and unwell, wincing in the faint breeze of critical ambivalence. It was a seductive jibe, fuelled by their initially spurious claims to sonic splendour. Mad Richard rolled his eyes and the rest of us wondered what sort of ace drugs... would make Verve sound good.

Consequently, th bending avalanche of shit-hot noise that 'Blue' came as a bit of a shock. Balls to the nuclear deterrent said Verve - one whiff of Nick McCabe's cordite guitar sound had humbled Visagoths galloping homewards with an awe-inducing dampness about the groin. Suddenly, what had once appeared to be nothing more than a limp-wristed in an FX emporium had gelled into something tough and lovely - and 'A Storm In Heaven' conjures up more of the marvellous same.

From 'Starsail' on, it's a collection of some of the prettiest noises ever to escape from amplifiers - bright, glittery bits layered densely atop chest-rattling distorto-drones emanating from somewhere over there. Richard's psychedelic platitudes have lost none of their power to embarrass; but here he's genuinely transported, gasping for air in a thick, swirling mix and lunging to the surface with the occasional snatch of heart-stopping Brettesque falsetto.

Meanwhile, the ghosts of Bickers and Beefheart, The Chameleons and (gasp!) early Simple Minds glide briefly across the surface while a freeform brass menagerie punch in with the odd petulant squall. Yes, it's ambitious and, yes, they're still inclined to ramble texturally. in an aimless quest for a hook (stand up 'Virtual World'). And, despite their insistence that it's neither tribute nor pastiche, 'See You In The Next One' is a pointless Spiritualized soundalike But they'll never be Levitation: their nascent prog-ness is tempered throughout by a naive and youthful brio.

And If you bought it? Well, at worst you'd be consuming state-of the-art tune-dodging, blissed-out atmos-rock that craps on Slowdive. At best you'll believe that a man can fly. (8)
  • Source: NME, by Danny Frost, 15 May 1993