Friday, 7 October 2016

Oliver: Verve - All In The Mind (22 February 1992)

We're in to Smashing Pumpkins/The Smashing Pumpkins territory here, but given that Peel dropped them from his playlists before they added the definite article, I'll give Wigan's finest their initial name here and in subsequent blog titles.

If truth be told, I never really warmed to Richard Ashcroft and company.  The first I heard of them was when I read that they were celebrating the release of their 1995 sophomore album, A Northern Soul by splitting up.  "See ya then", I thought, but clearly I should have been listening more closely given that man of the moment, Noel Gallagher dedicated the best song on (What's The Story) Morning Glory to him.  However, when The Verve re-emerged in 1997 with Bittersweet Symphony, I recognised the quality while remaining resolutely disengaged throughout.  It took me a decade to get round to listening to Urban Hymns and I came out of it feeling the same way I felt after the last of the Harry Potter films had finished - glad to have experienced it but once was enough.  I think it was the fact that they looked like they were hating every minute of it which put me off.  A suspicion that seemed justified when they split again in 1999.
This time they did splitting up properly, waiting 8 years before coming together to make the album, Forth heralded by the fantastic Love is Noise, my favourite Verve track by some distance, for what it's worth.  Alas, having finally achieved their goal of making me actually love something that they had created, with no further worlds to conquer, The Verve split again.

Listening to All in the Mind, their first single, I can see why Love is Noise resonated with me in a way that Urban Hymns era Verve didn't.  While that record was made for sharing among the largest possible group of people as could hear it - notwithstanding the fact that it touches on troubling emotions and themes - All in the Mind is a much more intimate and disturbing piece of music. It's as far removed from 33,000 people at Haigh Hall as it's possible to get.  Despite starting out with the obligatory, for the time, feedback, it's antecedents feel closer to something like The House of Love rather than shoegaze.  The action takes place over the course of a decade, starting from the perspective of Ashcroft being picked up by a mystery woman, and mixes together several possible interpretations including childhood abduction and grooming given that it's five years from that initial car trip till the subjects becoming lovers and then the woman assumes a disturbing parental role.  Ashcroft sounds disarmingly young here, his vocal proceeding at a level just above a whisper for long periods allowing him to play both roles, before bursting out in the choruses.  The music too is equally unsettling, hinting at dark rituals and abuse especially in the Who-like Morse guitar solo, while the closing squall of feedback sounds uncomfortably like a child being dragged down to the cellar.  It manages to be both horrifying and weirdly sexy.  Compared to their later work, it's doubly effective at
50% of the fuss.

Video courtesy of emimusic.

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