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Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #17 The Verve “Slide away”

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Verve was an alternative rock band that was formed in Wigan, England in 1990 by Peter Salisbury, Simon Jones, Nick McCabe, and Richard Ashcroft. They started to amass a following early on with their engaging live shows that were explosions of psychedelic and shoegaze guitar miasma and boasted an unpredictable but golden-voiced frontman. They were forced to add the ‘The’ to the front of their name shortly after the release of their debut album, “A storm in heaven”, when they received notice from a certain American jazz label who had already been using the name for years.

It didn’t hurt the band’s burgeoning success any, though, and after the release of a second album, “A northern soul”, they were regularly hitting the UK singles charts. They broke up for the first time in 1995, only to re-form the following year and resurface with the album that would give them notoriety the world over. It was the single, “Bittersweet symphony”, that did it for them. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the band a cent at the time, given the oft-reported story of an ex-manager for The Rolling Stones claiming all royalties for the sample used as its backbone, a story that only found closure in 2019 when the songwriting credits were finally signed over in full to Richard Ashcroft. Sadly, this event likely contributed to the first (1999) of two more breakups by the band, the second (2008) of which has held fast up to now.

Oh, you’ve heard of this band? I’m not surprised.

Like many, I became a fan of The Verve with “Urban hymns” and that ubiquitous lead single. But I remember at the time thinking the band name familiar and was pretty certain I had an idea where from. So I went back and reviewed my cache of VHS tapes loaded with music videos recorded off the various shows on MuchMusic in the early 90s. And sure enough, it was there: “Slide away”.

“So take your time
I wonder if you’re here just to use my mind
Don’t take it slow
You know I’ve got a place to go”

In the video, the band is featured, very young looking, long-haired hippie freaks, tripping and freaking out in the desert and as intense as ‘Mad’ Richard looks, some brave soul picks up the motley hitchhikers and then, brings them to a town where they inexplicably have a gig booked in a brothel. As crazy as all this sounds and looks, it seems to make perfect sense to the band members in such obvious ecstatic states. Not the video you would expect for a single and yet, though the song didn’t garner them a lot of attention in the UK, it made a massive splash on the US indie rock charts.

That muscular bassline, those swirling guitars, and of course, the hazy and lazy vocals had such a great groove and won me over every time I watched that video. And when I rediscovered the group a few years later, I fell in love with song all over again.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Phosphorescent [2013]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Phosphorescent at Ottawa Bluesfest, 2013

Artist: Phosphorescent
When: July 13, 2013
Where: River stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Context: Out of all the great performers at Bluesfest back in 2013, Phosphorescent’s (the stage name of singer/songwriter Matthew Houck) was one of the sets to which I was most looking forward. I had fallen in love with “Muchacho”, his psych-folk album from that year, almost at first listen, and then, when I went back to explore his back catalogue, I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to discover his work. I consumed it all like it was candy, so obviously, I was good and pumped for Phosphorescent’s early evening set and dragged my friend Jean-Pierre along for the ride. Houck had a five-piece touring band with him, many, if not all, of whom had also helped him record the aforementioned “Muchacho”. It was a pretty impressive ensemble cast, including an organist, as well as a keyboard player, a bongo player, and an incredible drummer, which made for a voluminous sound, a sound to get lost in with the hopes of never returning. The band played a good selection of tracks from Houck’s last three albums. Each song, though also long on the recording, was given the full freakout jam treatment with Houck wailing on his guitar and playing the feedback like it was art. My highlight, of course, was when they played “Song for Zula”, likely my favourite track off “Muchacho”. Nope, Phosphorescent did not disappoint despite high expectations on my part. My only beef was that the set seemed cut short, ending half hour earlier than the schedule stated it would.
Point of reference song: Song for Zula

Matthew Houck and Rustine Bragaw of Phosphorescent
Jo Schornikow of Phosphorescent
Scott Stapleton and David Torch of Phosphorescent
Christopher Marine of Phosphorescent
Matthew Houck
Categories
Playlists

Playlist: New tunes from 2021, part four

Well, we made through another year. It’s New Years’s Eve, a mere handful of hours left of 2021. I would normally be all optimistic for the new year, but I can’t help but question if things will really get better with the turn of the calendar. I saw someone post a meme recently on social media somewheres that gloomily said: “That moment that you realize that 2022 is pronounced twenty twenty too.” I laughed out loud because it rang so true.

Still, traditions must be adhered to. The countdown will go on, resolutions will be made and broken, young lovers will kiss at midnight, sparkling wines will be uncorked and guzzled, and of course, I will post the final instalment of my annual four-part playlist sharing some of the new tunes released during the year. You are welcome to go back and revisit parts one, two, and three, which include songs from the first three quarters of the year. And this final playlist, twenty five songs, much like the previous three, collects the bangers from the last three months. However, since new releases are typically scant at this time of year (the calendar usually being more full of reissues and box sets for Christmas), I bolstered whatever spots remain with the b-sides, or tracks that just missed being included in the previous three parts.

As rough as the year has been personally and for all of us collectively, we’ve at least had some great music being created and released to keep us going. In some areas of the world, things began opening up in the fall and live shows were being held, a sort of tease and taste of how things can be if they ever return to normal, and then, Omricon swept in to remind us that this pandemic isn’t quite beaten yet.

But let’s focus, just for a few minutes, on the joy of music, shall we? Right then.

Highlights of this playlist’s last twenty-five songs include:

    • “Still the same” is infectious synth pop from the latest album by Princess Century, the solo project of Maya Postepski (ex of Austra and TR/ST)
    • Always whimsical and dreamy and mellow rocking, Luna frontman Dean Wareham delivers fun on “The past is our plaything” from his newest solo album
    • On “Dying in LA”, Canadian indie electronic rock band, Gold and Youth, channels OMD and Simple Minds for the soundtrack of the film that John Hughes never made
    • And speaking of 80s revival, Nation of Language do their best impression of New Order on “Across that fine line”
    • It’s almost sickening how Elbow keep continuing to make untouchable and beautiful music each and every album but songs like “Six words” draw me in every time
    • Departure Lounge came out of nowhere earlier this year to release their first album in two decades and songs like the jangly “Australia” show why more people should have missed them
    • And finally, “(We like to) Do it with the lights on” is just one of many reasons I’m glad that Nicholas Thoburn didn’t stop making music as Islands, as he had threatened back in 2016

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist as I’ve created it, complete with links to YouTube videos:

1. “Pool hopping” Illuminati Hotties (from the album Let me do one more)

2. “Human touch” Pond (from the album 9)

3. “Still the same” Princess Century (from the album s u r r e n d e r)

4. “Mid-century modern” Billy Bragg (from the album The million things that never happened)

5. “The past is our plaything” Dean Wareham (from the album I have nothing to say to the mayor of L.A.)

6. “Aquamarine” Hand Habits (from the album Fun house)

7. “Bessie, did you make it?” Marissa Nadler (from the album The path of the clouds)

8. “Wasted” The War On Drugs (from the album I don’t live here anymore)

9. “Proud home” Lily Konigsberg (from the album Lily we need to talk)

10. “Miss Moon” Penelope Isles (from the album Which way to happy)

11. “Dying in LA” Gold & Youth (from the album Dream baby)

12. “Across that fine line” Nation Of Language (from the album A way forward)

13. “Turning green” Courtney Barnett (from the album Things take time, take time)

14. “It should have been fun” Pip Blom (from the album Welcome break)

15. “Royal morning blue” Damon Albarn (from the album The nearer the fountain, more pure the stream flows)

16. “Six words” Elbow (from the album Flying dream 1)

17. “Tell me tell me tell me” Rinse (from the EP Wherever I am)

18. “Australia” Departure Lounge (from the album Transmeridian)

19. “Too loud” Autogramm (from the album No rules)

20. “(We like to) Do it with the lights on” Islands (from the album Islomania)

21. “When I come around” Nap Eyes (from the EP Nap Eyes)

22. “When it breaks” Quivers (from the album Golden doubt)

23. “The right thing is hard to do” Lightning Bug (from the album A color of the sky)

24. “In the stone” The Goon Sax (from the album Mirror II)

25. “Jaywalker” Andy Shauf (from the album Wilds)

As always, wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe, continue to be well, and well, enjoy the tunes.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.