First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2008, Volume 15, #10
Written by David Gregory Schlegel
Thu October 30, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
It would be fruitless to look for acoustic-based songs on The Verve’s new album Forth. There simply aren’t any to be found. Instead, the band uses layered walls of sound to transport listeners back to earlier works, such as A Storm in Heaven, albeit with a twist.
The Verve’s new approach is striking, especially in comparison to its previous two endeavors. Urban Hymns and A Northern Soul followed a path that was closer to Oasis’ style of Brit-pop than to The Verve’s space-rock-influenced debut. Now, with tracks like Judas, Valium Skies, and Appalachian Springs, The Verve is returning to its roots. The difference, though, is that The Verve’s Brit-pop influences have been folded into the mix, which gives the ensemble a sound that is mature and experienced.
The Verve’s collective ability to write songs can be heard in some of Forth’s longer cuts. It is extremely ambitious of the band to stretch a quartet of tracks beyond the seven-minute mark. One of the pitfalls into which outfits such as The Mars Volta and Spacemen 3 tend to fall is that the longer compositions tend to feel as if they are overstaying their welcome. The Verve successfully overcomes much of this by incorporating abrupt shifts in direction midstream. On Noise Epic, for example, the outfit manages to turn a laid-back rock tune into an intensely dark piece, after making exactly this sort of transformation. It’s rewarding to listen to a group that shrugs off routine in order to spring a surprise on the listener.
One quality about Forth that differs considerably from any of The Verve’s prior endeavors is the darker mood that pervades many of its tracks. Sit and Wonder is the best example of this foreboding presence in the band’s songs. It brings a new stylistic twist to the group’s music by blending somber melodic guitar riffs with Richard Ashcroft’s tormented wail.
Reinventing itself is something that The Verve seems to do quite well. Considering that it not only has broken up but also has suffered through two lawsuits, it almost goes without saying that the band has always seemed to struggle along. Each time it has returned, however, it has gained strength from sculpting a new identity for itself. Ashcroft shocked many fans when he rekindled the group for a reunion tour, and the release of Forth — 10 years after Urban Hymns hit store shelves — is no less of a surprise.
Although it lacks a track that is as legendary as Bittersweet Symphony, Forth is a better album all around. The Verve’s new direction is an interesting choice, and hopefully, it will prove to be a rewarding move for the band, if only it can find the determination to stay together this time. Either way, it seems likely that if The Verve puts out any more songs, they, too, will be full of intriguing twists and turns. After all, can anyone expect anything less from a band that has become so good at changing its mold? Perhaps, it is best summarized in Ashcroft’s own words: "I’m a million different people from one day to the next." ½
Of Further Interest...
Forth is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box