The Verve Pipe

Overboard

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The Verve Pipe weren't inactive in the 2000s but they chose to toil away far from the spotlight, turning out a pair of very good family records before returning to action in 2014 with Overboard. This is their first collection of mainstream pop songs since 2001's Underneath and a lot has changed for the Michigan band since then: they've lost Donny Brown, the only other member to stay in the group for as long as leader Brian Vander Ark, and they've returned to independent status. The latter is perhaps expected, as the post-grunge gold rush of the '90s is long gone and there's more room for a veteran rock band to roam on an indie than there is on a major. The fascinating thing about Overboard is that the band sound much more comfortable here than they did in the wake of the success of Villain. They still spend perhaps a little too much time on ballads -- they're sweet and not florid, but they are often clustered together and slow the album's momentum -- but they've traded in sheets of overdriven guitars for nimbly arranged pop that isn't overblown, not even when strings are added to the equation. As on the finely crafted family albums, Vander Ark's classic pop instincts are on full display, often flourishing on the faster songs but just apparent as those that march by at a stately pace. This melodic facility gives Overboard some verve even as it underscores that, at its core, it's a classicist pop record, relying on old-fashioned virtues of tightly written songs, colorful production, and tight arrangements that bring the whole thing in at under 37 minutes. By returning to these core values, the Verve Pipe have opened up a new, mature chapter in their career.

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