So it’s time to start in on a new list and today’s as good a day as any. And at number thirty to kick things off, we have Richard Ashcroft’s “Check the meaning”.
Some of you might be familiar with his name and those of you who are not, are surely familiar with the band he fronted through the 1990s: namely, The Verve. His solo work has already appeared in these pages when his first post-Verve solo single appeared at number five on my Best tunes of 2000 list. And in that post, I talked about how excited I was when I first brought home a copy of “Alone with everybody” because I was such a fan of “Urban hymns” and how there was a modicum of disappointment when the album didn’t immediately blow my socks off. I also waxed philosophical about how Ashcroft had moments that really worked and those that didn’t and that he was likely missing a sounding board to temper his flights of fancy.
All of that to suggest that when 2002 rolled around and news came of a second solo album, I wasn’t as quick to go out and purchase the CD. In fact, I think it wasn’t until a year or two later that I finally got around to listening to it. And even then, it was only because I had seen a copy of it at the library and taking it home for a spin was a no risk investment. Of course, with my expectations low, I was pleasantly surprised but not completely bowled over by “Human conditions”. I found it was at best great background music, save for a few moments that stood out.
The opening track, “Check the meaning”, is one of the grander moments. It is also a good example of how Ashcroft could use some editing. The album version is a bloated eight minutes in length, the video below has it cut to just over five minutes, but I think if it had even been trimmed by yet another minute, the song might be a good ten positions or so higher in this list. It’s huge in scope and multilayered, strings and horns and guitars that flit back and forth between the speakers. The drums are just so, not really moving the song along but allowing it to be and breathe. Ashcroft’s vocals are exactly those that we have come to know and love, looped and mixed in upon themselves, singing words that question what it is to exist. In the end, he tells us that everything is going to be alright and after all this beauty and majesty, I’m inclined to believe him.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.