Richard Ashcroft - Break the Night with Colour

Emily Tartanella 07/01/2006

Rating: 4/5

Do you remember the first time? When The Verve was simply Verve and Richard Ashcroft was simply Mad Richard? When we marched like pilgrims to see our shamanic leader and hear his mystifying blend of soul and rock?

Clearly Richard Ashcroft remembers. General consensus is that his flaw stems from that very fact: he's still stuck in a bygone era, still delivering operatic indie ballads in a postmodern age. And with his newest single from his newest album, Richard keeps pretending that it's 1997. And somehow we keep following. Why, exactly? It's hard to say. Being dubbed “the best singer in the world” by Chris Martin doesn't hurt. And no matter what, Ashcroft maintains his charismatic, darkly intriguing aura. The man behind such epically beautiful works as “Bittersweet Symphony” and “The Drugs Don't Work” still has a spark and an inherent gift for pulling the strings of the human heart. The problem with Ashcroft's solo work in the past was its indulgence, with no one to reign him in he sunk into 6 minute pop songs full of drones and repetition.

Now at least he seems restrained, and “Break the Night With Colour” is one of his best songs in ages. Not transcendent but simply lovely in the traditional Ashcroft way, it's a song about getting over, about moving on, about growing up. Musically it owes everything to his earlier songs (“Sonnet” comes to mind) but still allures, thanks to that voice and an actual tune. The lyrics are typically cheerful as always --“Nothing's going right today,” he murmurs, “cause nothing ever does.” But at its heart, “Break the Night With Colour” is an engaging pop ballad, full of ooh-oohs at just the right moments. It strides in and fades out, and improves upon repeated listening. But even when Ashcroft isn't trying his hardest, he can still draw deep emotion from his listeners. In the past, Ashcroft has ceaselessly seized defeat from the jaws of victory. After Urban Hymns the world was at his feet, but it all fell apart. Now, at the dawn of a career resurrection, we can only hope he can keep it together. So wave your lighters and fall to your knees, Mad Richard is back.