"Why Should four lads from Wigan be able to create music so extraordinary? I dunno, but we can and it's time to seize it." Five years on from their inception, bold statements, physical and musical, are still the language of this band. The first time you see them play you find yourself asking if it's them that's flying or just the rest of the world standing still?....if you had ears then you heard it and, if you were lucky, you were up in the sky with them. Since their earliest reviews people have been eager to force the imminence of fame upon the band as though it couldn't happen soon enough. It was clear that something special was happening and perhaps because of that, the road from then to now has been a strange one. They did it their way...wilful decisions, a sense of vision, broken ankles, arrests and god knows what else, things take as long as they take. Now, with their second album, The Verve are at last in sight of thier own grand aspirations and the superlative desires of those first reviews look like coming true. The group formed in Wigan circa 1990. Richard, Simon and Pete knew each other from school and recruited Nick at college. Whatever went through their minds and into their mouths in the months that followed can only be guessed at but whatever it was, it worked. Nurtured by great music and Social Security and with eyes fixed firmly over the horizon they started making a sound that reached far higher than it had a right to. Gigs in early 92 led writers to describe them as "Gigantic" and "Already immortal" and this from a band that had yet to release a record . The gamble paid off. Those that saw them saw something potentially disconcerting, something inspiring. In a music scene that was waiting for anything to happen, down came The Verve. Like beggars in a Bently these boys were reaching for the stars, doing something that bellied their age and roots, and people began to respond. Signed to Hut Records, their first three singles in 1992 - 'All in Mind', 'She's A Superstar' and 'Gravity Grave' - all reached the top of the Independent Charts. The songs, the sleeves and even the B-Sides were something to behold. Together they demonstrated a vision that was absent from many of their peers. But it was a vision that wouldn't bend for anyone, live shows saw them literally unplugged by philistines and, occasionally simply stopping if they felt that things weren't right. Capricious arrogance perhaps, but if you're sure your right where's the sense in going wrong? They went on to support the Black Crowes, released another single, 'Blue' in May of '93 and play the street of New York City from the back of a flat bed truck. In June of the same year thier debut album 'A Storm In Heaven' appeared. And it was everything it promised to be. Typically , all the singles were absent, most of the songs were generated in the studio with production legend John Leckie and once again it proved to be a risk worth taking. By September the single 'Slide Away' was starting to make an impact in the States and - with the album widely agreed to be one of the highlights of the year - 1994 beckoned and with it Lollapalooza. Touring on such a scale can do things to a band. You improve but people crack, furniture goes out of windows, arrests are made (it was a bad year legally, not only did Pete find himself in a Kansas jail but the band formally known as 'VERVE' found themselves forced to adopt the 'THE' at the behest of irate jazz purist lawyers). But you live and learn. Back in the U.K. they played Reading Festival before heading out to Europe for more festival action and hotel illness. So at the begining of winter the stage was set for the second album. What followed was, to quote Richard, "Four intense, mad months. Really insane. In great ways and terrible ways. In ways that only good music and bad drugs and mixed emotions can make." The record was produced at Loco studios in Wales - with final touches and an orchestra at Abbey Road - by Owen Morris. "We needed a producer who would be extreme", says Richard "Owen brought his personality to the record. He's the only person I know who can smash a 30 foot glass window in the studio and then do his job. He admitted he nearly had a nervous breakdown, and I think that's a commendable performance". The album that emerged from this rural apocalypse, 'A Northern Soul', is as extreme in the scope and scale of it's achievment as the events that surrounded it's making. The band entered the studio with a surplus of songs , all of them contenders - one evening saw Owen destroy a speaker with a chair in celebration of a track that didn't even make the final version - but which will appear in the future. The record itself fulfils all the dreams , prophiecies and promises that have been with the band since they started. You could say that they have reached for the sky and entered the stratosphere. All The Verve's myriad influences are maintained here. Attempts at description lead to paradox - violent., compulsive, black (in every sense of the word), beautiful, personal, powerful, whatever.........The fragile brilliance is maintaned but somehow underscored with previously unseen strength. From the glorious opening 'A New Deacade' via detroit chaos come blues, acid rock, unknown territory - the towering distortion groove of the title track - the one take monitor mix of 'Drive You Home' to the Abbey Road strings of 'History' (the bands most self consciously epic song to date). For Richard it is "One character going through 12 different experiences of pain, elation, sex, loss, romance..... all the emotions piled into one album. This is to the point, to the heart and from the soul. We've been liberated as a band. We've always played what we've wnted to play but now a door has opened, and I really believe we can compete with the greats". This is the sound of a band crossing a meridian that was, perhaps, beyond even their own imaginations. What happens now is anyone's guess. Not bad! Adam.