Alternately real and surreal, passionate and cool, frenzied and tranquil--you might say that the music the Urban Verbs created Saturday night at the 9:30 club accurately reflected their recording so far. But at its best--and the Verbs played at or near that level throughout the first set--their album seemed pale and lifeless by comparison.
The difference can be attributed to the band's new lineup. Now that Linda France and Robin Rose have departed, the Verbs' rhythm section (new bassist Billy Swan and drummer Danny Frankel) plays a more dominant role. So does guitarist Richard Goldstein, who in the past frequently worked his swirling psychedelic lines around Rose's synthesizer. The result is a sharper, more immediate mix of instruments, and if there's anything vocalist and songwriter Roddy Frantz requires of a band it's this sense of urgency.
Even so, Frantz's perennial obsessions with frustration, anger and paranoia can become awfully tiresome. As always, his songs are heavy with confused emotions. But now the Verbs are better prepared to help carry the load, and even some of the old songs they performed ("For Your Eyes Only," "Next Question" and "In the Heat") sounded much more convincing than the originals.