The Verve Pipe toiled in relative obscurity until breakthroughs from its last album like the sentimental pop hit “The Freshmen,” which dominated the airwaves of both alternative and Top-40 stations for several months.
So after producing unnoticed albums since 1992, the group begins promotion of its self-titled album in an unaccustomed fashion – with expectations to live up to. The Verve Pipe (RCA) has big shoes to fill after the success of 1996’s Villains, which led to three quality singles and had some of the best writing of any recent album.
The new release gives fans what they have come to expect from The Verve Pipe, including solid songwriting – with everything from biting sarcasm to anguish – and a mixture of heavy guitar riffs and slow ballads.
The first single from the album, “Hero,” is a little off the beaten path for the group. The song, however, is already on its way up the charts with consistent radio play and a music video already in rotation. With vibey guitar lines and the back-up vocalists singing “oooooohhhhh” nearly throughout the song, it might seem like the group lost some of the edge that was its calling card on past albums. But the trademark acerbic wit of songwriter and lead vocalist Brian Vander Ark shines through in this song as he laments in the chorus that “I’m just a jerk/but a hero’s what I wanna be.”
The Verve Pipe also recorded several songs on this album that try to capitalize on the success of “The Freshmen” and appease the audience brought into the group’s fold with that cross-over hit. While “The Freshmen” reverberated with anyone who remembers being young and making a mistake, nearly anyone who’s ever been in love can identify with the new album’s “Half a Mind.” Vander Ark’s gravely yet powerful voice carries much of the album, and it truly makes this song come alive as he croons “Leave me behind/you would if you had half a mind.”
The Verve Pipe dances back and forth between the lands of pop and modern rock, as the group also provides some songs capable of sending a crowd into a frenzy and spawning a mosh pit. The bass-heavy licks of Villains “Photograph” are replaced by the driving bass lines and intricate guitar solos of “Supergig” and “Headlines.”
The band visited a few large venues on its last tour; now, with its repertoire of hit songs and a large array of arena-rockers from this and other albums, The Verve Pipe is ready to fill some stadiums with its fans and its sounds.