Sound — 9
It's a new decade for the reunited Verve, but will the radio still play the songs they make? The Verve broke up for the second and seemingly last time in 1999 soon after guitarist Nick McCabe left the band due to personal friction with singer Richard Ashcroft. The next eight years saw three mediocre and rather bland solo albums from Ashcroft, a Damon Albarn/Gorillaz collaboration for bassist Si Jones, a temporary drumming job in BRMC for Peter Salisbury, and some very low key collaborations for McCabe. It looked as if The Verve would never play together again. Ashcroft went so far as to say that one would see all four Beatles playing together than all four members of The Verve. Then in June of 2007, the unthinkable happened and The Verve announced their reunion. Following a half year of performing acclaimed gigs at Glastonbury and T in the Park, the Verve are ready to release their fourth album, entitled 'Forth' to the listening public. With 'Forth', one gets a sonic combination of the previous three Verve albums. The ten songs cover everything from the early-Verve jams of 'A Storm in Heaven' to the bombast and balladry of 'Urban Hymns'. Like most Verve albums, the standouts are McCabe, Jones, and Salisbury. McCabe is unique in his ability to create guitar sounds and layers that are remarkable, while Jones and Salisbury are about as good a rhythm section around.
Lyrics — 5
The weak spot of the record is Ashcroft. The same dull, dreary attitude displayed on his solo efforts is present here. Ashcroft in his early days was a shamanic frontman-living and breathing every word he sang. You could feel his jubilation, his stoned detachment, and his pain. However, something happened to him after the success of 'Urban Hymns', Ashcroft now views himself in the classic singer/songwriter mold, complete with dull lyrics and softly strummed guitars. Yes, Ashcroft can still bang out a stand out chorus, but he rarely comes up with a verse nowadays that is anywhere near as powerful as even his lesser songs from Urban Hymns. Listen to Numbness or I see Houses for point illustrations. One redeeming quality for Ashcroft is that his voice is better than ever. Sit and Wonder and Appalachian Springs are excellent examples of the power Ashcroft's voice had. I just wish he had something to say these days.
Overall Impression — 7
The album has no absolute standout track, like every previous Verve album, but it does offer up some very strong songs. Sit and Wonder is a epic opening track, similar in vein to 'The Rolling People' off of Urban Hymns. Lead single 'Love Is Noise' has an incredibly catchy chorus and a vocal loop that, while annoying, gets under your skin. 'Rather Be' is an anthem with a hook that would not be out of place on 'Urban Hymns'. Closing song Appalachian Springs finds the Ashcroft/McCabe dynamic working at it's best, with vocals and guitar work that'll hit all the emotional chords. However, the rest of the songs seemed either half-finished or Ashcroft solo material that he managed to get bump on to the album. If I could recommend something to the Verve, it would be to record an album live in studio, because they sound their best when feeding off each others sounds. They bring out the best in each other this way. I hope 'Forth' is just the warm-up album before another classic Verve album. By no means a step back, it just seems like The Verve needs some time to shake off the dust.