Source: ?? (1984)

by Cynthia Rose

Cover [Virgin)

IN 1976 Tom Miller aka Verlaine ended a published poem with the line "I shall contrive an envy so strong that its object will disappear". And while each of his successive solo projects has reflected personal attempts to follow through that objective, most have had grander-sounding results, ranging from the furiously passionate to the chastely elegiac.

'Cover', which sets restless renunciation and the rejection of secondhand experience against a grateful acceptance of visceral human emotion, comes the closest yet to such an ambition. It's (deceptively) simple, melodic, pared right down. Over two years, in different cities on separate continents, Verlaine's virtuoso skills disciplined by his studio savvy have separated the old inscrutable cry of love into an eight-strong series of engaging imperatives.

"I had a dream/A dream so fine/And in that dream/Nothing was mine/And I heard you say unto me/That in my dream/There was too much to see. . ." Thus begins 'Let Go The Mansion': lyrics suspended just before a familiar, ringing wall of guitar-driven melody rolls in via the roads of light and rain.

'Let Go The Mansion', says its author, is the album's only case of music and lyrics evolving simultaneously — the rest of the words were "a case of looking for the right Idea to make the music more alive". A six-week hiatus spent hitch-hiking round America's northeastern coast during recording played its part: the voice of tracks like 'Emily' and 'Swim' incorporates the Yankee independent as Tom encountered him today.

Of course Verlaine wanders again and again into that thicket of barbed wire where nothing is tame and love remains ever warm. And the vocals here are freer for the increased time spent attending to them. Realty free: the love song which closes Side 1 ('Foolish Heart') could almost sound like a show tune, were it not infused with flowers of that warmth which pumps up straight out of the chest. And the love song which closes Side 2 ('Swim') Is structured straight from Verlaine's own idiosyncratic store of deaths and lives: an introvert is being interviewed and doesn't know quite how to express himself — until he bursts into the tone of a 50s ballad.

All of which leaves other enticements undescribed, particularly 'Dissolve' — a tune composed explicitly like a film. 'Dissolve', breathes Verlaine, '. . . Reveal' 'Quote' shouts a voice; 'Unquote.', another. Meanwhile, percussion percolates, guitar strings sting, melody is atomised by a thunderclap like iron sleet suddenly descending —then it surfaces again with effortless smoothness.

The sound of "Cover" is the sound of that pure contradiction which burns into the name of everything, held up for moments of sheer physical celebration as one momentarily holds a mirror into the world's enormous space - capturing enormous want in each man's single space.