Monday, November 19, 2007

The Verge - Habitual ep + 1 (1983)

Yet another one from the 'wish I'd been there' chronicles. Hardly known as a musical breeding ground, Albany, NY's Verge, managed to cultivate one heck of a 7" ep, almost a full 25 years ago. Brandishing an archetypal post-punk inclination, The Verge married jagged, but sweet echoing guitar licks with Thomas Rella's amelodic vocals. The result were surprisingly intoxicating, not unlike what Killing Joke and Middle Class were dispensing around the same time. Definitely a must for all you KBD fans out there.

Truth be told, I know nothing about the Verge save for their location and meager body of work. The music will really need to speak for itself this time, and trust me, it does. In addition to the four-song Habitual ep, I've also tacked on the excellent "1-2-3-4-5-6," lovingly extracted from a forgettable local compilation, Hudson Rock, released in 1982, that furthermore proves how incredibly gifted this trio were and what more they could have done. If anyone can provide me with more background info on the Verge, by all means...

Habitual ep
1. Tradition
2. Understand
3. Picturesque
4. Hypocrisy
plus
5. 1-2-3-4-5-6

9 comments:

spavid said...

The original drummer for the Verge, Martin Feierstein stumbled across my post and was nice enough to contribute some much needed info on this rare EP. As follows:

The band was formed in 1980 (a short while before I joined) and started recording and playing out frequently. We opened for The Ramones, Violent Femmes, Flipper,and Mission of Burma just to name a few. There is nearly a full lp's worth of unreleased material out there from the beginning(1980) to the end(late 82 or early 83?). The band was in the middle of recording the first lp when we broke up. Why this happened, I don't really know. I think that Tom Murray(Skip as he was known) just had had enough. I say this because I briefly recall that Tom and I were thinking of another bassist to replace and it just never happened. I was playing in other groups at the time and I guess that didn't help, but as genius as The Verge was , it wasn't generating any dough for me and I needed to pay the rent. I guess you could say I was the Glen Matlock of the group(but I didn't compulsively wash my feet !)..I went on the replace Anton Fig as Drummer for Link Wray in 1985. Tom Rella did some other projects which I belive were industrial music and to the best of my knowledge Skip quit music altogether, which is a shame as he was a kick ass bass player.

This group went through some fast musical changes in a very short period of time. I would say at the time I joined, the band was influenced by groups like Buzzcocks/Jam/Troggs & 60's garage punk. This quickly got heavier and headed towards a Joy Division/Killing Joke/Scientist type influence. Finally, the band took on a much more heavy hardcore punk slant and Tom Rella especially was more influenced by Minor Threat/Nig Heist/Crass near the end of the bands career. It cracks me up when I hear folks call the band power pop. Anyone who hears live tracks of some of the final songs such as What Is Great and Words On A Page will understand that the band was far from power pop at that point. The guys would probably bristled at my analysis of musical influences which I'm sure is far wider, but I remember Tom playing some if these records after rehearsals.

Vincent Zandri said...

Just a quick correction: I was the original Verge drummer, having worked with the band from '80 to early '82 (or late '81 maybe; Marty correct me here) just prior to making the move to Providence, Rhode Island for college. In any case, it was at that time Marty replaced me.

From what I can recall I made several professional 8-track recordings with the group. More than a few board mixes are known to exist; some amateur recordings. However, the band did far better after I left. To this day I do not retain even a single track of recorded Verge material, professional or otherwise.

During my undergrad years Tom Rella went on to record, engineer and produce an unreleased demo EP for my band, Cost of Living (Peter Phillips Lead Guitar, now with Matthew Sweet). We opened for REM, The Ramones, the The Minutemen, Till Tuesday, NRBQ, and others. I also played some shows and recorded with a kind of goofball trio named BEATless, but decided to leave the group after realizing it would be impossible to make the commute from Providence to Albany on any consistent basis. Again, Marty replaced me (Have we ever met Marty? Holy crap.)

Post undergrad, Rella and I formed yet another trio with another bassist, but that didn't pan out. In a word, Rella and I just didn't get along--two very stubborn people I guess.

I dropped out of the music scene altogether and headed to writing school. Post writing school I dusted off my kit and joined up with New York City's infamous Straw Dogs which was headed up my editor at Delacorte Press, Jacob Hoye (he bought my novel As Catch Can). We recorded and produced both an EP (5$ EP), a video and accompanying live show at the Elbow Room in Manhattan. We were also a part of the new music CMG at Webster Hall.

It was around this time I ran into Tom Murray in a New York Deli just moments before I was to play a gig at the now defunct Spiral on Houston Street. I had always known Tom as a good, stable and talented guy, but he seemed profoundly disturbed at the time, totally off his rocker. He also didn't look well physically. He kept referring to himself as a “Computer geek.” I could only shake my head, wish him well. Such a great talent, it was sad to see him in that kind of shape.

After some touring and recording success, Jacob left Strawdogs (and Delacorte) to head up a pop culture books division at MTV where he remains to this day.
I published my second novel, Godchild, with Banatam-Dell, but musically moved on to Charmboy up in Albany.

I now record and tour extensively with The Blisterz, a power trio which falls into the Verge "punk" category of yesteryear. We recently were voted second best rock band in a Metroland Magazine poll (I was voted third best local author for what it’s worth)
You can check us out at http://www.myspace.com/theblisterz.
Or go to www.vincentzandri.com

PS. Marty I can only assume that if I ever leave the Blisterz you will be there to fill my size tens.

Contact said...

Hey Vince,

Nice to finally meet. Wow, what a post ! Not to worry, nobody could fill them shoes. Besides that, I admit I'm only a 9 1/2 ! Safety of Science, What's The Sense ? Fuhhgetttabout it ! Killer tracks. You're the best...No kidding.

Actually, I did correctly state in my post that the band formed prior to my joining. I should have gone into details but wanted to keep it brief. I did cringe a bit when I read that line (original drummer) placed by the original poster..The change actually occurred in early 1981 as we played April 15th of that year at the Metro and then opened for the Ramones at Skidmore College. I actually recently found a huge collection of original concert posters !

BEATless ? Wasn't that Jim and Jay from the Xistentials(I'm probably spelling this wrong)? I played with those guys for half a second too. That was more of a friendly thing for me rather than a serious project. I tried to support the scene as best as I could in those days. Actually, I frequently aired Safety Of Science on my radio program Marty's Pop Party. So much so that it actually received charted airplay on our survey. The same goes for the the Hudson Rock compilation. I read Mark Extra's story in the Extras' CD liner notes about hearing the song "This Generation" on WSPN radio while incarcerated in prison. I would bet money that it was my show he heard as I plugged the crap out of that song as well many of the other great bands on that comp including Extras, Lumpen Proles, AD's, Crude, Xistentials, etc.

As far as Skip goes, well I haven't seen him or spoken to him for over 20 years, but hey, in reality, aren't we all "computer geeks" ? Just look at us here posting about what what may have been a great band but in the larger scheme of things what really amounts to a minor footnote in the rock music scheme of things.I mean in the sense of the band in general, not who played first(Abbott and Costello).

What's really far more tragic than the brief career of The Verge is what happened to much harder working bands like The Ramones who never quite made it big in the US, yet soldiered on and on until it literally killed them. Funny enough, only the drummers(Tommy and Marky)survived. HAH ! Hopefully, the CJ and Ritchie Ramone fans won't all pile on my back at once ! Heck, at least I didn't leave them out this time... It seems we all fight these days for our little place in the sun, and at the end of the day we all are a bit stubborn. I've been working on a solo project for a while and the arguments I get into with myself are amazing!

As for your leaving The Blisterz, I don't think they would even consider my superstar rider, not to mention the fact that the cost of gas from Philadelphia would certainly exceed my cut of the gig money. All kidding aside, honestly I'm a little burned out on the music business at the moment to say the least.I've lost many friends to this business and my philosophy these days is: if it's not part of the solution then it's part of the problem...

Besides, isn't it all free nowadays with You Tube and illegal downloads? The Capitol Records tower has been literally been emptied and although I believe it's been deemed a historical landmark, the music business as we know it will probably never be the same. Art for art's sake I guess.

Glad to hear you are doing well. You're certainly way ahead of me.. Bona fide publishing deals and you actually have a website ! Cool deal.

Rock on brother !

xyodax said...

What about this unreleased material? Make it available please!

bassgtr1 said...

The Verge was indeed a powerful band. My brother Chris Ryan, and later myself became good friends with Tom Rella in probably 1981 and my brother was sort of the band artist, creating fliers and misc. material. Chris was murdered in Albany's Washington Park in 1999, and I've found all sorts of artwork from that time-screen prints of t-shirt art for the band etc. I believe I'm the bass player that Vince mentioned playing as a trio with. I think it was variously called Puny Universe and Particle and I've got a small handful of cassettes from then-great sessions. Playing with Tom made me a much better player-he expectd a lot, and we went on to play together for a several years until I went away to school (where I played in the Pink Floyd and other trippy cover playing rock band, Heroes of Rock)and then the pop rock band in Albany Fat Albatross. I spent the 90's playing with another Albany hard rock act, Crabapple and currently play in the Cheap Trick inspired F420.
I can attest to the fact that both Vince and Marty were incredible drummers-in my now almost 30 years of playing, I've only come across the likes of either of them once or twice. They both played in a very "musical" way-their touch and sheer power made me hear the drums in a different way, and Tom Murray (Skip) was a dynamic and melodic self taught bassist. He'll probably never know how many of his licks I copped when I was a young kid watching all the local bass players to pick up any tips that I could. I still pull a few out today.
I wouldn't trade those memories for anything.
Geoff Ryan

jaimi said...

Thank you so much for keeping the download link active! I just heard "Understand" on WMBR in Cambridge and was instantly in love! What a great sound!

paisa said...

Thanks

bunny said...

great conversation. i got hear from the man sized action post. looking for a reup of this and other The Verge material.

Thanks

spavid said...

The link has been updated.