'Love Is Noise' is The Verve's first hit single in over a decade - their last was 'Lucky Man' back in December 1997 - they split up soon afterwards in early 1999... Their comeback single has been described as "a rampaging epic" - it reached No. 4 in the UK charts in August 2008It's an odd coincidence that The Verve's comeback album Forth was released in the same year as Portishead's Third, both follow-ups to albums released on the same day in 1997 (and indeed the top two albums on the following Sunday's chart) with similar titles. Of course, Portishead hadn't actually split up in the 11-year gap, they were just slow, but the Verve had returned from their second acrimonious split (that we know of) at a time when Richard Ashcroft's solo career seemed to have lost momentum.
After a few live appearances and the release of lengthy studio jam 'The Thaw Session', 'Love Is Noise' was the first proper new material from the group in the 20th century, featuring the four original members again with 1997-8 member Simon Tong left out for reasons never made clear. I'm not sure whether it's supposed to be a play on the tensions within the band that the video never shows all four of them together, but I'm inclined to blame the director. In fact my advice is to ignore the video entirely and concentrate on the song itself, which I'd call a qualified success. Ashcroft's voice is rather raspy and hard to miss with its prominence in the mix and the lyrics veer into Razorlight-style pomp, self-consciously updating Blake's 'Jerusalem' with lines about "walk on soles made in China". The title phrase "love is noise" has a highfalutin I-am-making-a-definitive-statement air about it too, but at least you can make some sense of it; knowing that this post was coming up I've tried to do that the last few times I've heard the song. I can imagine one way to see it is that love is like noise of the electronic sort, a distortion that breaks up straight lines and makes things less perfect and clean but also adds character; whether that's what Ashcroft actually means is anyone's guess, but you wouldn't expect the singer from a psychedelic rock band to think noise and distortion were bad things, would you? Possibly this isn't as original an idea as he might think, and I find myself reaching for an analogy with Richard Thompson's ironic 'Love Is Bad For Business', but it's a good enough vehicle for the music, a taut four minutes - in the radio edit at least - with powerful rhythm playing and a slightly hypnotic effect. Personally, I like the two extremes of the Verve sound, space-rock and ballads, less than I enjoy the middle ground, and this makes for a good single, even if the backing vocals do sound a bit like Teletubbies.
Also appearing on: 37, 38, 39, 40
Available on: The Anthems