The Verve - Forth

Alisha Ahmed 11/09/2008

Rating: 4/5

Ten years in the waiting and one year in the making and eventually the new album by The Verve is out. Forth is, as the name suggests (call it unimaginative or simple), the fourth studio album by The Verve, in a time span of fifteen years. Apparently this reunion and subsequent new album, was the most awaited thing, by both press and fans, since the Take That reunion in 2006 (and the comparison, of course, ends just there.)

Ashcroft, McCabe, Salisbury and Jones, the original line-up from 1989 when they formed, gathered together again last year for a tour that eventually turned into newly written material subsequently recorded, giving a follow up to their 1997 masterpiece: Urban Hymns. But rather than just pick it up where it was all left - at the closest they ever got to Britpop- the sound style that can be found on Fourth is mainly reminiscent of the work that came before.

The Verve brush up elements that can be found as early as in their 1992 debut EP, such as the dreamlike sounds and psychedelic atmosphere that have established their signature style.

Songs like Valium Skies and Sit and Wonder develop in ways that sound incredibly close to the one of She's a Superstar and Gravity Grave from the aforementioned Verve EP, and this is beside the fact that Sit and Wonder defines the perfect opening song, with its long instrumental intro that gives time to get acquainted with the guitar-dominated sound that will be one of the main features in all the songs that come after it.

Rather be is the song for nostalgic fans of tunes like Lucky Man from their late-90s style, as it goes back to the softer sound and melodies of the Urban Hymns era, though still with an ethereal, psychedelic touch. And ethereal is also the best way to describe Judas, whose slow-paced beat and echoing lyrics make it the most melodic and tranquillizing song of the album, and encapsulates the choice of a peaceful vanilla coloured sunset for the album cover.

As different styles and elements merge together in these ten songs, Numbness is representative of the other side of The Verve style, as it has its lyrics going in circles enough to let the attention focus instead on another signature element of The Verve sound, which is the virtuosity of McCabe's guitar.

But Forth isn't simply an establishment of what The Verve have already proven to be -which wouldn't be so bad anyway - and the best proof of this is what can be considered both the most courageous and yet the best choice for the first single of an album coming out after a ten-years hiatus. Love is Noise is the most unique song in the album, being kind of far from The Verve style established so far, and probably even too easy to listen to, with its near dance beat and electronic loops effect, but it can be also considered some sort of benchmark showing howForth seems to pick up details and ideas from all that has been before in the history of The Verve's sound, and yet it goes further than just the sum of the details and parts.

In essence, nearly all the songs are based around sound loops that go in circles and effectively get into your mind, but more than just melody-wise, what resonates is the overall feeling and mood of the individual songs themselves. It's like being brainwashed by emotions articulated in sound.

Ashcroft & Co. successfully revive a lot of their earliest psychedelic sound, and manage to go even further, mixing it together with highly developed songwriting.
So in a way, Forth makes it all come full-circle for The Verve, and given the way one wants to look at it, can have either the right to be considered a way to celebrate the path they've walked on for the last nineteen years, or provide a statement to epically declare their reunion.