The Verve – “Forth”

 

“You’re more likely to get all four Beatles on stage,” was how Richard Ashcroft once responded to a Verve reunion question. Despite his typically bullish comments, on June 26, 2007, the Wigan four-piece announced that they had reformed for a second time. Recent live shows have seen the band at their fiery, melodramatic best, but nobody’s quite certain whether Ashcroft and guitarist Nick McCabe have buried the hatchet for good. Was The Verve’s astounding Glastonbury closing set one last chance for the Britpop generation to bellow along to ‘Bittersweet Symphony’? Or does Forth signal a fresh beginning for the band who once had the world at their feet?

The Verve have never dealt in half measures. Their first two albums, A Storm In Heaven and A Northern Soul, were full of colossal, hypnotic rock ‘n’ roll that threw in the kitchen sink, the fittings and pretty much anything else they could lay their hands on. Their third, Urban Hymns, was an entirely different beast, choosing strings and mega melodies over guitar noodling and psychedelic wig outs. The earnestness of songs like ‘Drugs Don’t Work’ and ‘Sonnet’ struck a chord and their sales figures went through the roof. Following their split, Ashcroft muddled along with three largely unimpressive solo albums, all of which were crying out for McCabe’s deftness of touch. Eleven years on fromUrban HymnsForth positions itself somewhere in the middle of the layered soundscapes and brutal noise of the band’s early work and the swirling anthems of Hymns.

The opening four tracks capture The Verve at their very best and if the rest of the album matched them this would probably be their finest work to date. Opener ‘Sit And Wonder’ is a brooding, bass-driven belter that McCabe twists and turns around Ashcroft’s throaty rasps (“Give me some light!”) for nearly seven minutes. Taking the baton onwards is the grandiose march of lead single ‘Love Is Noise’, which has a chorus huge enough to match Ashcroft’s bombastic lyrical waffle. ‘Judas’ and ‘Rather Be’ stray dangerously close to the wishy-washy dreariness of Ashcroft’s solo material, but are saved by some cosmic McCabe guitar work and, in the case of ‘Rather Be’, a gorgeous chorus that will go down a treat at their next stadium shows.

Perhaps the label were breathing down their necks, or maybe The Verve needed to get out of the studio before they imploded again, but the rest of the album doesn’t sound as fully realised. A song title like ‘Noise Epic’ suggests a work-in-progress and perhaps explains why much of the record sounds like it’s in its formulative stages. Many will be delighted to see McCabe unleashed on the jammy ‘Colombo’ and proggy ‘Numbness’, but these tracks lack the sparky madness of the group’s early work or the stadium-conquering potential that The Verve possess in spades. Only on ‘Valium Skies’, surely the next single, and ‘Appalachian Springs’, the album’s finale, does the dual axis of Ashcroft/McCabe truly take flight. Ashcroft shows his usual swaggering self-belief, while the guitarist goes to town with some trippy licks and inventive rhythms. The much underrated combo of Peter Salisbury and Simon Jones, as always, provide the pounding and authoritative rhythm section that allows their gobbier bandmates to flourish.

If Forth is to be The Verve’s grand farewell, it’s a fitting tribute. Sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s awful, but you can never question its ambition. Richard Ashcroft has always had the loftiest of dreams for his band and every so often this album scales those heights.

review courtesy of digitalspy.co.uk

RELEASE: August 25, 2008

RATING: 4/5

our own review to be released after the official release date.

 

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One Response to “The Verve – “Forth””

  1. I’m really not fascinated about their comeback. I think this one will be a hit but not compared to their past material. I’m a little bit disappointed with this one. Anyways, Lookin’ forward to buy this!

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