Describing the power and beauty created when Richard Ashcroft’s song-writing and vocal talents combine with guitar maestro Nick McCabe’s galaxy-spinning magic is almost as futile as predicting if and when The Verve will reform. By 1999, only six years after The Verve’s first album had been released, the band had split for the second time. But almost a dozen years after The Verve’s “last” effort – 1997’s Urban Hymns – a matured Verve reformed for a second time to storm the heavens once more with 2008’s Forth.
The album’s lead and first single, Love Is Noise, with its up-tempo dance beat and echoed vocal loop, is a track unlike anything The Verve had done before, but Forth as a whole is a curiously comfortable blend of every formula The Verve had already perfected. Ashcroft’s honed song-writing brings alternative-rock form and clarity to an album largely borne from psychedelic jam sessions: a partial return to the shoegaze-method of creation that the band executed extensively early in their career. Jam-led, and soul-searching, Forth sprawls accordingly, with songs averaging at 6 minutes in length and tracks like Numbness and Columbo allowing McCabe room to shift skies with his guitars and experiment with vibraphones and autoharps.
Forth’s heavenly album art encapsulates the album’s sound perfectly: majestic and ever-changing, tracks range from the sparklingly atmospheric Valium Skies and the gentle ebb and flow of I See Houses, to the rapturous ferocity of 8-minute Noise Epic. The album’s celestial sound is complemented by violin-virtuoso Davide Rossi whose electric violin and string arrangements scatter through the album like faraway lightning. Ashcroft’s rich voice resonates with passion and maturity, peaking on Forth’s lyrically-inspired Appalachian Springs – a sky-splitting, heaven-shaking end to The Verve’s fourth studio album and third lease on life.
Unfortunately, instability and conflict is as intrinsic to The Verve as electric chemistry and sonic glory, but fans of Wigan’s finest self-imploding band can thank the heavens the stars aligned long enough for Forth to break through the storm.