The Verlaines – Ready to Fly

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

This was the Verlaines’ major label debut, which was on Slash, which was also the label that picked up fellow Kiwis The Chills the year before. Clearly, someone at Slash was paying attention; they should have just signed the entire Flying Nun roster. Though I doubt either band sold well enough in the States to make those signings pay off. The Slash logo is cool. The Verlaines toured behind this album but I was not yet into them in 1991, sadly.

What I Think of This Album

Look, if one of the lyrics of your song is “Why don’t you love me?,” then I am probably going to like that song. Does this make me a pathetic fuck? No. It doesn’t make me one  . . . it just underscores the degree to which I am one.

Anyway, that line is but one of the many charms of wonderfully titled opening track “Gloom Junky,” which also offers this classic:  “I don’t mean to say you’re infantile / But do you ever listen to yourself?” The song – like the entire album – finds Graeme Downes striking the perfect balance between his pop and orchestral sensibilities.

Still formally a three piece, the Verlaines get help from no fewer than twelve additional musicians, mostly on horns, strings, and reeds. That said, “Overdrawn” is possibly the fastest, most drum-heavy song they had recorded to date, while “Such As I” sounds like it was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but in neither case does it sound like the Verlaines are going too far in one extreme or the other.

And indeed, most of the songs follow the pattern of the glorious love song “Tremble” – effectively bringing together the rock instruments and the orchestral ones, with Downes’s emotive vocals tying everything together. “Hurricane” is another pop song that borrows from Broadway, but it works perfectly. “War In My Head” is appropriately frenetic, with Downes doing his best to explain his competing, extreme emotions.

“Inside Out” is another song that marries horns and strings to a roller coaster drum part, and which relies on Downes’s way with a melody, while “See You Tomorrow” is basically a country-blues number from an alternate universe version of Oklahoma! where Laurey and Ado Annie wear Chess Records t-shirts.

Oddly, “Hole In the Ground” starts out like a Wire song, but quickly develops into a warm message of support to a heartbroken friend (“Dance as if you were on his grave”). The title track is a full-throated declaration of freedom (“You’re wearing me down / I’m ready to fly”). “Moonlight On Snow” is less immediate than the other tracks, but is a very pretty orchestral piece. The Verlaines end things with the quick sine wave of “Hold On.”

The Best Thing About This Album

Everything here is fantastic, but I will go with “Tremble.”

Release Date

1991

The Cover Art

They broke out the fisheye lens, but didn’t really need to go through all that trouble, as there is barely any fisheyeing going on here.

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