Music

The Verve Pipe: Underneath

Andrew Gilstrap

The Verve Pipe

Underneath

Label: RCA
US Release Date: 2001-09-25
Amazon
iTunes

The Verve Pipe, though, seem to be made of sterner stuff. Teaming with producer Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne), the group has effectively reinvented/refound itself as a crack power-pop band. The differences are telling. In the place of the band's previously muddled identity, which placed them somewhere on the more melodic sound of grunge, is a new identity that embraces big hooks and harmonies. This is especially evident in a track like "I Want All of You", which rests on a sly drum beat and simple acoustic pattern. Vocalist Brian Vander Ark's vocals are surprisingly seductive. It's also the first indication of Vander Ark's new level of comfort with his voice. Ranging in tasteful graininess, it's similar in feel to Seal or Peter Gabriel, and it works wonders for the songs.

However, Underneath also treads through some regrettably generic songs. For all the band's newfound inspiration, they still get mired in your typical midtempo rockers that fail to engage. That accounts for about a third of the album, so it's hardly inconsequential. However, they also offer up successes like "Medication", which wallows in wah-wah pedal effects and power chords. "Gotta Move On" maintains a delicate, bittersweet vibe via tasteful piano and a restrained falsetto by Vander Ark. "Local Boys" even exorcises a well-hidden Zeppelin fetish. "Wonderful Waste" is a curious but working hybrid of XTC and the Smithereens. The title track weaves a nice, ethereal mood, and it truly wouldn't be out of place on Peter Gabriel's recent work. When The Verve Pipe fire on all cylinders, they're capable of truly engaging, radio-friendly rock.

True, there's nothing blindingly original about the band's newfound path. Still, Underneath is easily their best record so far -- one which delivers on much of the promise that the band initially showed. Vander Ark's mellowing croon is partly responsible, but credit should also be given to the newly discovered songwriting skills of drummer Donny Brown, which give the band more grace and personality. Schlesinger gets songwriting credit on a few songs, but it's obvious that The Verve Pipe are gelling into a more cohesive band, and are no longer just a vehicle for Vander Ark. Underneath shows that the Verve Pipe learned from the mistakes of the past, which I guess is what "Freshmen" was talking about all those years ago.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image