THE ALBUM -- The Urban Verbs (Warner Bros. BSK 3418).; THE SHOW -- At the Pension Building, 440 G. Street NW. Call D.C. Space, 347-4960, for ticket information.
With Warner Brothers pushing their debut album, D.C.'s own Urban Verbs appear on the brink of a big break. Not that their eccentric new wave music will achieve mass appeal, but they'll at least get a warm concert send-off from their local following Saturday at the Pension Building before their international tour.
Finally, Washington has its very own angry young band. In fact, one cut on the Urban Verbs' self-titled LP could be the anthem of the new wave movement. The lyrics of "The Angry Young Man" convey a demented world view with resilient, savage energy. An enduring drumbeat punctuates the group's warning:
Watch out, watch, out, we're just a handful A silhouette on the twisted horizon We draw our lives along strange desires Hold no comforts, no convention... It's intentionally grating, but the Verbs have no time for restful melodies.
Vocals by Roddy Frantz, who also wrote the words, overpower the musical accompaniment on first hearing; but the guitars, piano and synthesizers woven into an intricate maze of sound ultimately provide that extra edge of anguish to an emotion-packed album.
The feelings expressed here are not pretty. Songs speak of inner "frenzy," "shivers," "confusion' -- all in the context of youthful high anxieties. Frantz has a purposeful stutter on key lines to heighten the sense of agitation; his nerves are jangled on every cut. As one song puts it, almost painfully, "I demand sensations."
The most accessible number is "The Only One of You." It's hyperactive but destined for radio airplay, being the closest the Verbs come to a love song. Wailing guitars and electronic squeals are nearly indistinguishable while the twisted terms of romance are related: "The scent of you is not clinical; The shape of you is not institutional." Sweet nothings with a pathological beat.
On "Luca Brasi," a macabre fantasy, heavy metal covers a bubbling synthesizer as lyrics graphically tell a dream horror. Parental guidance suggested on this one.
More interestingly, the opening track, "Subways," draws the listener into the shared motion and mindlessness of the world below the city. This is a ride beyond the country truckers and the freeway rockers. Instead it's dehumanized, raw traveling music, noting that "Down here I have never felt guilty . . . on this train I'm never ever lonely, people smile from pictures on the wall." When they're not angry, it seems, they're zombies.
Which brings us to the "Next Question," a series of nagging queries, ultimately groping for the meaning of love. The wall of sound does a buzzing slow burn behind the confused vocals: What will we do when we find love Sit in the corner, maybe talk with our eyes closed Or go around & around like couples I know It's too hard to say, I can't predict the outcome Is this another love song? Sure, given the derangement on the rest of the LP. But it's mainly an assault on the attitudes of "love" -- the Verbs don't deliver simple poetry.
Listeners either will relate to this off-beat stance and the music's harsh tone or not. "The Urban Verbs" is a demanding album and those with middle-of-the-wave tastes will have to make an effort to join the dementia.