Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Verlaines

The Verlaines, whose first loves were punk’s desperate urgency and classical music’s high romanticism, released a series of increasingly poetic but always enthralling records between 1982-1996, mainly for Flying Nun, have been preparing a new album.

Anyone who heard Graeme Downes’ – the chief songwriter and the only constant in the band’s history – superlative solo album for Matador, 2001’s Hammers And Anvils, will know that new output from Downes is long overdue; anyone familiar with The Verlaines’ back catalogue will, like me, be rejoicing.

Although named after the French poet Paul Verlaine rather than Television’s Tom Verlaine – who himself, born Thomas Miller, adopted the poet’s name – The Verlaines shared the furious spirit and classic guitar rock played by firebrands that make Marquee Moon such essential listening. Or, as the line in The Verlaines’ masterful Pyromaniac goes, “Totally written off but there's laughter at chaos."

The Verlaines’ debut single, Death and the Maiden, with its "Verlaine" lyrical motif inspired Downes to later say, “I haven't read much Verlaine. I like Baudelaire, Yeats, Eliot." More tellingly, Downes explained that he found “the image to be an interesting one, the image of innocence, and not knowing how to handle it, and facing some of the hairier issues that come along with maturity.”

The ingredients of some great music are there, no? To keep up with progress of The Verlaines' comeback (and progress is slow) there’s a comprehensive site here; or see the Death and the Maiden video, along with other Verlaines songs, here.

On a related note, I was talking to Lawrence a few years ago and I asked him about Tom Verlaine being a Felt fan. It was true, he smiled, Tom Verlaine did go up to the stage right after a Felt gig and shake Lawrence’s hand. After the gig, Verlaine’s girlfriend was saying how odd it was as he didn’t do that sort of thing. In fact, it was the only time in his life he had ever done such a thing. Lawrence, understandably, was still rather proud.

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