Elsewhere by Graham Reid

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Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion by writer Graham Reid

The Verlaines: Untimely Meditations (Flying Nun)

The Verlaines: Beauty is Truth
The Verlaines: Untimely Meditations (Flying Nun)

Of the original Flying Nun bands, the Verlaines – the flexible vehicle for Graeme Downes – are still the most ambitious.

Downes' lyrical depth and mercurial melodies deliver durable albums -- like the previous Corporate Moronic -- which bristle with rage rather succumb to the comforts of age. And this one is no exception.

Here in the angry opener Born Again Idiot the protagonist talks to God who says he should have read His book but “you read Nietzsche instead, I'll catch up with you shortly after you're dead”.

In the seductively jazzy On the Patches (“off the fags”) Downes says there's no good argument for intelligent design “unless she's a sadist” and there's an apocalyptic gloom about the evolutionary path in Dark Riff (“time's quickening drum”).

Woozy trombone in the bent ballad Diamonds and Paracetamol about cruel infirmity creates disconcerting unease, as do whirly-gig guitars and horns in the swinging Beauty is Truth.

An angry skepticism is rife (“I don't fall for the gag that beauty is truth . . . I've grown tired of perfection”), there's barely suppressed fury at those who have pets as fashion accessories and in places there's a broad political subtext.

James K Baxter's long shadow is here too in James, Jimmy, Nuisance, Hemi, it is cast over younger poets and those who would follow too slavishly in his footstep.

The 11 minute Last Will and Testament is dense, acerbic poetry which flails and rails, and the final piece What Sound is This? comes on like an antipodean Fall.

As always, Downes is still raging against the machine, and the long goodnight.

Untimely Meditations is not easy, but often has a grip like that ancient mariner eyeballing the wedding guest.

Graeme Downes answers the Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire here

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Tags: best of elsewhere 2012