Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Oliver!: Verve - Untitled (aka Change My Life) [Peel Session] (7 March 1992)
The recording I heard of Peel's show on 7/3/92 only contained the last two tracks from The Verve's sole Peel Session. Given their popularity, I'm surprised that no-one took the option lavished on many more minor artists and split the tracks up, but I suppose Verve fans want the full seven movements rather than the edited highlights, much like the band itself. Gosh, I'm being bitchy aren't I? And I was so friendly last time we crossed paths. I blame Luke Haines of The Auteurs, whose splenetic memoir I was flicking through last week in Bromley Waterstones. More on that book some other time, especially as it makes great play over the addition of the definite article to Wigan's finest musical export.
I'm not going to split hairs with this one as I think there's plenty to enjoy for everyone in this session. I came in at track 3, which at the time of recording the session, had no title. "You would have thought they could have called it Vortex or Construction 52 or something, but Untitled it remains." It would eventually be known as Change My Life, a battering, monumental and exhilarating slab of space rock, albeit one which showcases the conundrum at the heart of The Verve. With the guitars turned up, I enjoy them more, but Richard Ashcroft gets lost in the maelstrom, though you can hear him barking out his disgust at his lot in customary style. In quieter settings his strident didacticism could come across as hectoring, but here it sounds like the pissed off drudge, at his limit and telling anyone who can hear through the noise of modern life that change is coming.
The fourth track (or second as I heard it), Already There, is a bit of a borderline inclusion with Ashcroft's hushed vocal inspiring annoyance, but no other band that I can think of in the 90s did a better job of closing that space between the everyday and the celestial. It's captured here, in what is one of their more lyrically repetitious songs with the line, "Save your books and your pills - I'm already there". The music does that soft/loud/soft/loud/soft thing, but just about stays the right side of cliche.
Of the earlier tracks, I like Slide Away a lot. It's early bass/drums interplay sounds like a lunar buggy staking out new terrain before Nick McCabe's guitar suddenly illuminates the landscape with the ferocity of a solar flare. [She's a] Superstar, the second track is still growing on me. For the first couple of listens it sounded like an aimless slog, but as Ashcroft's voice starts to make itself heard, there's a surprising kitchen sink vibe to the lyrics in parts too as he laments being left in his social climbing girlfriend's wake with nothing but the bills for company. It's like a social security update of Drive My Car.
If you want to go straight to Untitled, then it comes on at 10:31.
Video courtesy of Vibracobra23.