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Platinum & Gold Collection: The Verve Pipe

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Album Review

The Verve Pipe were one of the handful of post-grunge bands that had a hit in the mid- to late '90s that was ubiquitous, and then had the bottom suddenly fall out from underneath them. That hit, of course, was "The Freshmen," a pained, earnest mid-tempo dissection of a relationship gone wrong that the band's lead singer/songwriter, Brian Vander Ark, wrote years before the Verve Pipe had formed. Starting as an acoustic ballad, by the time it turned into a radio hit it was given a brooding sensibility, heavy on heavy guitars and echo, that didn't just fit into the post-Nirvana landscape of '90s modern rock, it epitomized how alternative rock was no longer underground — it was a commercial juggernaut. If the Verve Pipe never had another hit to match "The Freshmen," it was not for lack of trying, nor was it for lack of material — as their first hits compilation, Platinum & Gold Collection, proves, they had similarly hooky material that fit well into mainstream alt-rock radio. And they did have other hits, like "Photograph," "Villains," and "Hero," but while sturdy, none of them became a touchstone like "The Freshmen" since they had neither the immediate hook nor the universal subject matter of that single. The Verve Pipe might have been able to retain a small cult if their second major-label album, an eponymous 1999 effort helmed by superstar producer Michael Beinhorn, didn't tank, bringing their career down with it; by the time they released their very good, Adam Schlesinger-produced 2001 album Underneath, they were already considered a footnote to the alt-rock era. While they were by no means trendsetters, they were a solid, reliable band, and this compilation proves that out. This naturally relies very heavily on their one big LP, 1996's Villains, with three tracks apiece from Verve Pipe and Underneath and a live version of the Pop Smear favorite "Spoonful of Sugar" added as a closing cut. It's an excellent summary of their three-album stint with RCA, and while this music is emblematic of its time, it does prove that of the one-hit post-grunge wonders of the second half of the '90s, the Verve Pipe had one of the most consistent bodies of work.

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Formed: 1992 in Lansing, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Primarily known for their post-grunge blockbuster hit "The Freshmen," the Verve Pipe formed in 1992 in Lansing, Michigan, where frontman Brian Vander Ark pieced his group together from the ashes of two local bands. He and his brother, bassist Brad Vander Ark, had previously played in Johnny with an Eye, while drummer Donny Brown and guitarist Brian Stout were veterans of Water 4 the Pool. Both bands had been local favorites throughout Michigan, which helped the newly formed Verve Pipe become a local...
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