Review of The Verve's Forth: Revaluation

I have edited this post, since I first wrote it, because, on a 100th listen, The Verve's Forth has become one of the comforting and lyrically subtle albums of the year for me, despite my earlier qualms. It's good to see this on-again-off-again band from the 90s (which I think of as one of Britain's best of that period) welcomed back so warmly.

After The Verve broke up, again, gangly prophetic lead singer Richard Ashcroft took his dreamy voice and visionary lyrics on a self-interested joy ride over a few albums of pleasant, rambling boredom. It was hoped a rejoining of the group, including hugely talented guitarist Nick McCabe, would force Mr. Ashcroft to be less verbose, less aimless, and more, well, brilliant. I loved A Storm in Heaven - one of the great albums of the last 15 years. A Northern Soul (with stirring anthem "History") upped the ante.

Then came the smash success of Urban Hymns - an album that seemed to marry poetry, personal lament, and "Galveston"-style country pop, with druggy indie rock. Well, Forth is like its brothers, but not quite as handsome. It stretches its legs, wanders about, gets lost in a haze, and makes ponderous statements about life and love - mostly at mid-tempo, even sampling the start of "Live To Tell".

All the verbal tropes and tics are in place (even the warbling through a distorted mic that sounds like a tannoy system run amok). This is sleepy stuff, nodding off before bedtime. It is a sleeper, truly, and actually very good. Four Specs.