The Verlaines - Biography
By Oliver Hall
Dunedin, New Zealand’s Verlaines are, along with the Chills and the Clean, one of the most memorable bands to surface on New Zealand’s Flying Nun label in the 1980's. Led by the charismatic Graeme Downes, who earned a doctorate in classical music (particularly Mahler) during the band’s early years, the Verlaines deliver guitar pop, heartbreak and ambitious song structures.
The complex chord changes, sad melodies, pop sensibility and odd sense of humor that mark Downes’s songs are all there on the Verlaines’ 1983 single “Death and the Maiden,” a melancholy pop gem as catchy as a detergent jingle until the lengthy instrumental waltz section starts after the second chorus. Hallelujah All The Way Home (1985 Homestead) and Bird-Dog (1987 Homestead) add imaginatively orchestrated classical instrumentation to Downes’s increasingly elaborate compositions. Juvenilia (1987 Homestead) collects the Verlaines’ early singles and compilation tracks, including the brilliant “Doomsday” and “Pyromaniac.” Some Disenchanted Evening (1990 Homestead) more or less returns the Verlaines to the sound of a small, live band, setting the tone for the two electric guitar dominated albums the band would release on Slash Records, Ready to Fly (1991) and Way Out Where (1993). Sony/Columbia New Zealand issued a 1997 album, Over The Moon, that remains unreleased in the United States. Graeme Downes’ solo album Hammers and Anvils (2001 Matador), a spare studio creation, made further Verlaines projects seem unlikely, but in December 2007, the Verlaines released their first new album in a decade, Pot Boiler (Flying Nun), also currently unavailable in the U.S.