I've just spent an intense week listening to A STORM IN HEAVEN, Verve's debut album, and I can barely contain my excitement. Not since 1988- when MBV's ISN'T ANYTHING busted open rock and loosed a new alien magma- have I been so all-fired intoxicated by a piece of music. Not since then has one album made everything else around sound like the anemic, mortal flailings of midwest bar bands.Unless something extraordinary happens, A STORM IN HEAVEN will be the best album of 1993.
The three EPs Verve released in '92 showed they were real gone merchants of epic psychedelia. But with STORM Verve have quantum-leaped into another sphere of gonedom altogether. I guess "Endless Life" from the GRAVITY GRAVE EP should have tipped me off that Verve were capable of a life-changing work, but I'm still agog over how much they've grown in less than a year.
From the first blast of distortion to the sanctified, valedictory fadeout 40-some minutes later, STORM is all criss-crossing tingles, headspinning wonder, kaleidoscopic visions, freefalling bliss, orgasmic shudders, etc. Sex and drugs are encompassed WITHIN Verve's rock- you don't need to go outside of it to complete the famous equation.
While Verve aren't innovators like MBV, they DO revitalize better than anyone I've heard ye olde psychedelic roque. Verve's lineage can be traced back to the Doors, Can, Zeppelin, to Echo and the Bunnymen, through MBV, Spiritualized and Spectrum. Like the last three mentioned, Verve generally dispense with traditional pop song structure; instead they build songs out of repetitive phrases that fluctuate from peacefull, quiet passages to towers of mantric, polychromatic noise. Verve just let their music FLOW- people who value "tightness" above all in music probably won't like Verve. Give such folk a wide berth.
Unlike 99.9% of the albums released every year, STORM has no weak tracks. "Star Sail" and "Slide Away" set the tone: vast, cavernous, explosive psychedelia that scrambles your senses. "Already There" mirrors the somber aura of Led Zep's "The Rain Song" with spare spangling guitar slivers elegantly swelling into power chords made of diamond asteroids. "The Sun, The Sea" and "Blue" storm heaven with a graceful power unheard since Mercury Rev's "Chasing a Bee". For variety there's "Virtual World" which has a god-forsaken flute fluttering amidst a spooky space-blues shuffle. And "Make it Till Monday" and "See You in the Next One" drift amorphously in a Spiritualized haze of Gospeldelia. "Butterfly", as I write, is the most compelling song in the multiverse. Nick McCabe's guitar and Simon Jones bass describe a simple yet threatning riff which then tumesces to outrageous proportions. Richard Ashcroft's voice somehow enlarges to match the music as he chants "Butterfly!" in a horrific echo chamber. Toward the end mad horns enter the enveloping chaos.It's all too much, thankfully. A STORM IN HEAVEN presents ten songs that end way before you want them to; ten songs that sound as if their four young English are awestruck before them (they should be); ten songs supremely balanced between post- coital bliss and pre-fight adrenalized power; ten songs that put the sigh into psychedelia. Verve: out of time and out of space.