Most of R. Stevie Moore's vinyl and CD releases focus on the more accessible songs from his humungous collection of self-released cassettes. 1985's Verve, on the other hand, is one of Moore's strangest albums, setting a few choice pop tunes against some of the most abrasively experimental material the New Jersey-based one-man band has ever recorded. The mix does a good job of showing the extremes of Moore's range, but it largely neglects the middle area, those songs that are catchy and odd in equal doses, where the artist has always done his best work. Some of the titles may look familiar, but the versions of "I Want You in My Life" and "Steve" are not repeats from 1976's Phonography and 1977's A Swing And a Miss, but are more recent, weirder, and noisier re-recordings. However, compared to total freakouts like "Feisty Schoolmarm," a bizarre monologue delivered against a martial drumbeat, and the inexplicable tape manipulation experiment "Splem Jeague 3," even the manic "Pledge Your Money," a breathless demand for financial support of New Jersey's legendary freeform radio station WFMU, and "I'm Bored," a folksy acoustic song nearly buried under an amount of tape hiss Guided By Voices might find excessive, sound like the Dave Clark Five. There are gems here, like the genuinely trippy "The Most Powerful Statement In History," which sounds like Head-era Monkees filtered through Brian Eno's mixing board, the ultra-bouncy "Everything," and the pulsating new wave guitar rock of "I See Stars." Even some of the more experimental tracks hold a certain fascination, particularly the deliciously strange vocal harmonies of the closing "Who Deserves It," but overall, Verve is largely incoherent and rather self-indulgent. The original cassettes would probably better serve even casual R. Stevie Moore fans.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason