The Verve - Forth

However by track four all is not well - 'Judas' is far too reminiscent of Ashcroft's own, watered down, solo career.

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Released 25 Aug 2008 | Parlophone | By Chris Cummins | Rating: 3-5
The Verve - Forth

Richard Ashcroft and co's much fabled and belated return comes in the shape of 'Forth'. It's been twelve years since the Lancashire band dominated the British music scene with their obscenely successful third album 'Urban Hymns'. After their split, Ashcroft continued to tour and record, but always lacked, both live and on record, the extra dimension added by McCabe's unrivalled layered guitar work. Luckily the band has put all grievances aside and has entered into the studio once more.

Opener 'Sit And Wonder' sets things up well. Ashcroft's vocals are powerful and haunting, and as he cries "she's the teacher and I'm the pupil, but I ain't learning", memories of the jaw dropping amazement - induced by songs like 'This Is Music' and 'Slide Away' come flooding back. McCabe's influence is instantly recognisable, as well as Simon Jones'. The pair's musicianship adds that much need extra dimension to Ashcroft's lyrics, and cements The Verve's reputation as one of the most musically intricate and gifted bands. Up next is the outstanding single 'Love Is Noise' which having been played constantly on the airwaves and music channels alike since its release needs no introduction. As track three kicks in you can't help but think this is it, another classic Verve album.

However by track four all is not well - 'Judas' is far too reminiscent of Ashcroft's own, watered down, solo career. The song focuses mainly on Richard's vocals and has none of the powerful guitar work which made their first two alums so awe inspiring - the unforgettable chord sequences that gave 'Lucky Man' and 'Drugs Don't Work' their commercial appeal. The next few songs continue in the same manner, they are just bland uninspiring Ashcroft penned yarns.

The album is by no means a complete write off - by track seven things pick up again. A thumping bass groove kicks in and then McCabe slowly builds 'Noise Epic' into a thunderous driving anthem. 'Valium Skies' is reminiscent of The Verve at their early psychedelic best. Fans of 'A Storm In Heaven' will fall in love straight away with this dreamy psychedelic tune, filled with lush guitars and beautiful melodies.

'Forth' is by no means The Verve's greatest album, nor the album that will restore their crown as England's best band, but it is still better than anything most of today's new bands could muster.