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Urban Verbs on NPR February 6, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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Urban Verbs

Urban Verbs

The Urban Verbs were one of many bands to produce a couple of great albums in the new wave era and then disappear into obscurity. Their first album, released in 1980, wasn’t released on CD until 2003; their 1981 follow-up, Early Damage, didn’t make it to CD until 2008.

They should have been bigger. They were on a major label (Warner Brothers), their first album was produced by Mike Thorne, who’d produced Wire and would soon produce albums by John Cale, Soft Cell, and many others; their second was produced by Steve Lillywhite, whose production style added a lot to the early albums of U2 and Big Country, among many others. They had a connection to the Talking Heads (lead singer Roddy Frantz was the brother of Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz). They had a unique but accessible sound, with great interplay between the lead guitar and synthesizer lines, that could generate aggressive rock songs like “Angry Young Men,” blissful love songs like “The Only One of You,” and beat-driven tunes like “Jar My Blood.” But the Talking Heads connection proved to be a bit of a curse, and Frantz’s vocals were described as an imitation of David Byrne’s, so the band were too often unfairly dismissed as Talking Heads Light.

There was a reunion show in 1997 and apparently a couple of songs made it onto a compilation, but basically there was nothing between 1981 and 2008. Until NPR broadcast an interview and live concert in May of 2008, anyway. I had a hard time trying to record the audio stream, but it wasn’t necessary; the interview and concert — nearly two hours of music — from All Songs Considered, as well as an interview from All Things Considered, are available as mp3s from NPR’s website. (You can listen to the files online, or do a view source to find the address of the actual mp3s.)

There’s even some new songs in the concert. It’d be great to hear properly produced studio versions of these songs, because the live mix isn’t quite as good as it could be. Nonetheless, it’s great to see the band get this chance to have their music heard again.

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