There was that little moment in time, a sweet spot just before the end of the last century, when the Verve defied laddish Britpop and nailed shut the coffin of angst-ridden grunge with a swooning psychedelic pop anthem called “Bittersweet Symphony.” But at that time, the band’s days were already numbered, and infighting caused them to split in 1999 and — after a reunion tour — break up again a decade later.
Charismatic, chiseled-cheek frontman Richard Ashcroft soldiers on, though, and returns with his fourth solo album, “United Nations of Sound,” a record that continues his flack-catching musical right turn. During a rollercoaster 10-day recording period in New York working with hip-hop producer No I.D. (Kanye West, Jay-Z, Common), the U.K.-based 39-year-old made this soul-searching, soul music-influenced record.
“I went out there to work with really talented people who understand and appreciate not only samples, but someone to bring out the beats; someone who understands that ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ is one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time,” the equally assertive and ruminative Ashcroft tells Metro. “He understood all that. I admired what No I.D. had done before, too.”
There were a few moments when Ashcroft says if he had more sense he would have just left, particularly on the first day, when No I.D. was hours late.
“A couple of days later we were laughing about all the classic odd things that went on that really meant that I should have gotten on the plane,” he admits.
Ashcroft hails from Wigan, where in the early 1970s, Motown and Philly
soul sounds fueled dance all-nighters at Wigan Casino and spawned a
musical movement called Northern Soul.
» “I wanted to work with
someone who can also talk about Marvin Gaye and the Staple Singers, and
all that, go through everything. I had it vindicated that actually,
yeah, I was right; there are people out there.”
» Catch Richard Ashcroft tonight at 9 at the Bowery Ballroom (212-533-2111). Visit www.boweryballroom.com for details.