Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Album Review: Forth

The Verve

On Your Own Records

Where were you 11 years ago? Riding a wave the commercial success in support of the album Urban Hymns, The Verve toured the world, tasted platinum success and capped a momentous year by playing a huge hometown gig in Wigan, England. Then they split up... for a second time.

With the odds seriously stacked against them, the band shocked everyone and reformed in the Fall of 2007. Guitarist Nick McCabe, bassist Simon Jones, drummer Pete Salisbury and vocalist Richard Ashcroft regrouped to play a series of sold out U.K. shows, re-igniting the fires in both the fans and each other.

The band began jamming in a rehearsal space and the fruits of those sessions birthed Forth, an classic storm of The Verve's musical styles that moves forward artistically and also manages to honor the celestial jams of Storm in Heaven & Northern Soul era psychedelia. Not everything works, but repeated spins reveals a talented band getting back in the saddle and pushing forward.

The Verve are at their best when the band just jams on a groove and Ashcroft transforms into Mr. Mojo Risin' and spins cosmic shamanistic tales. "Numbness" and "Sit and Wonder" are album highlights in this regard. McCabe's guitar erupts swirling waves of guitar over Jones' slinky basslines and a Salisbury big beat.

And while we can all smile for the band acknowledging their early albums, the pop sonics of Urban Hymns has not been discarded. Songs like "Rather Be" takes a gliding chord progression and builds a psychedelic pop gem. Despite its disco vocal loop, "Love is Noise" is a comeback song if there ever was one, with an impassioned vocal from Ashcroft driving this song to blissful heights.

Of course, there are some stinkers: "Judas" sounds like an Ashcroft solo album cut and makes me want to claw my eyeballs out with absolutlely craptastic lyrics and a drift-y "A Man Called Sun" style guitar line. "Noise Epic" is a pro-tooled stitched song that is anything but epic, and the blinding sheen of "Valium Skys" sounds like a carbon copy of an Urban Hymn radio song to these ears.

Brit Pop epics are here as well. "Appalachian Springs" is a seven minute cinematic British journey, while "I See Houses" drifts along like wind across sand dunes, pausing for some orchestral peaks of pop sunshine to heat things up. While these songs aren't bad, we here at HF would have traded these pop epics for some more rockers, but hey, that's just nitpicking-music-writer snobfoolery.

Defying odds, The Verve are back together and have created a solid album that erases the 11 year layover and finds the band making up for lost time musically. Lets hope this is just the beginning.

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