In 1993, Nirvana contributed an outtake from the Nevermind sessions called Verse Chorus Verse to an AIDS relief benefit album. The title was a pithy dismissal of the conventions of the standard rock song that the Seattle trio were spectacularly trying to destroy. It also reportedly became the working title for a posthumous Nirvana live album, which Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl abandoned after they found compiling material after Kurt Cobain's death too overwhelming.
VerseChorusVerse is also the musical moniker of Belfast musician Tony Wright, who was a member of Northern noiseniks And So I Watch You From Afar from 2004 to 2011. ASIWYFA remain one of the best Irish acts of recent times – with a string of fine albums and EPs – and are still one of the best live bands in the country.
Wright left the fold to pursue other projects, and we may find out more when he publishes a memoir entitled Chapter & Verse in October. The timing is certainly right, as Wright is enjoying a highly productive patch. In addition to releasing his third studio album, Outro, he has just been appointed as the artist in residence for the MAC Arts Centre in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. When not pursuing his VerseChorusVerse muse, Wright collaborates with David Lyttle as Say And Do, and also has a swamp blues project on the go entitled The Tragedy of Dr Hannigan.
This time around, Wright has truly outdone himself, as Outro is a life-affirming collection of rousing rock and pop, skewed, minimal folk and pleasant blasts of horns. Wright also displays an endearing sense of humour, crediting himself with vocals, guitars, keyboards and pepper grinder. Herb Magee is on bass and backing vocal duties, while Andrew Coles does co-production, drums and horns.
Opening with Leave it Alone, which sounds a bit like a long-lost Alan Lomax field recording that Moby never got around to polishing up, Wright's voice is raw and visceral. It's certainly not representative of the whole album, as seconds later he chips in a delicious folk-pop song called Category, the album's lead single, which also comes with a superb self-made video that Wright filmed on a whim while visiting Casalittico, a mountain village southeast of Rome. It is entirely shot and edited on an iPhone, staying true to Wright's quirky lo-fi principles.
Chord (Gunn Laws) has plenty of swagger and seductive brass as Wright channels his inner Jon Spencer. Meanwhile, No One as Lonely and I'm Afraid of the Whole Wide World (How about You?) show the sweet, sensitive and insightful side to Wright's songwriting. The former turns into rousing slice of anthemic Springsteenesque rock, while the latter is a bug-eyed, beautiful and tender song.
Shakedown Sally won't be to all tastes, and comes across as a bit boogaloo, but I can also see them swinging in the aisles as it becomes a crowd-pleasing live favourite.
Outro touches on a dazzling array of styles and sees Wright at the peak of his powers, writing, performing and releasing the best material he's done since the first two, classic ASIWYFA albums, which sent a desperately needed shockwave through Irish music.
The next chapter should get very interesting, as no other contemporary Irish musician I can think of has tried their hand at penning an autobiography. Wright has had a fascinating life, from being courted by record labels at the tender age of 15 to touring the world. His VerseChorusVerse creative vehicle has grown into a fully fledged musical entity, effortlessly creating songs that can uplift and comfort – which is ultimately what great music, and art, should be all about.