For over a decade now, The Verve has donned the title, “one hit wonder.” While somewhat accurate, if you go by ”Bitter Sweet Symphony” mega hit standards, the band’s resume does include three fantastic albums, not to mention the status of being an iconic band of the 90’s Britpop resurgence. If The Verve’s newest album, Forth, does anything, it builds on this underappreciated résumé, shattering the VH1 stereotypes, en route to delivering another fantastic record.
In America, during the early-to-mid 90’s, Grunge ruled our musical charts. With a rough and heavy sound, the “Generation Xer’s” rebelled against the 1980’s radio friendly “Hair Metal.” The backlash to the arena rock gave way to bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and more. However, across the pond, there was a completely different sound that the youth clung on to; whereas Grunge tended to be angry, Britpop was often happy and well, poppy. Grunge drew heavy influence from Led Zeppelin, Velvet Underground, and Black Sabbath while Britpop drew inspirations from The Smiths, The Jam, and The Beatles. Bands like Oasis and Blur battled for the top of the UK charts and often times each other and up until 1997, Britpop wa essentially a two horse race. But then, a huge international, “Bittersweet” hit took over the radios near the end of that year, causing the the music community to take note of a third, a four-piece outfit from Greater Manchester, who called itself The Verve. Extensive touring and the success of its third album, Urban Hymns, saw The Verve enter the echleon of rock stardom over the next. But then, as quick as the success came, it was over – the band broke up in early 1999.
In June 2007, BBC reported that The Verve would reunite with the original line-up and do a small world tour, with a new release set for 2008. As welcoming as many fans were to the idea of a Verve reunion, others feared that a new album would not only dampen the legacy of Urban Hymns, but the somewhat iconic status of “what ifs” that the band held? The Verve was willing to take this risk, choosing to return to the forefront of the music world, rather than stay in the safe world of rock ‘n roll memories. Was the gamble worth it? As the first sounds of the band’s latest project, Forth, rings aloud, these questions are answered, fears put to rest.
After the first three tracks of Forth you know that The Verve hasn’t lost a step during its long absence. In fact, it feels as if the band molded all of their previous efforts into one triumphant return. With the psychedelic sound of A Storm in Heaven and the more structured lyrics of Urban Hymns, “Sit and Wonder” provides us with the classic Verve sound as Jones and Salisbury create an almost dream like rhythm, while guitarist Nick McCabe makes such distorted guitar sounds that seem to ascend as high as the album cover looks.
“Love Is Noise” absolutely screams to be a live staple of the band. Richard Ashcroft’s vocals seem to encompass the entire track as he croons, “Cause love is noise and love is pain/ Love is these blues that I’m singing again.” While at first the track seems to offer nothing more than an incredibly catchy chorus, you will realize that Ashcroft is crying out to our generation to wake up and “recognize the heavy burden” of our global crises. The third track, “Rather Be”, sounds like an improved version of “Sonnet” as Ashcroft’s vocals seem to sync up perfectly with Simon Jones’s bass as it builds into the rest of Forth.
While the first couple of tracks are phenomenal in its own right, it’s near the middle and towards the end of Forth that The Verve really shines. “Judas” is a wonderfully crafted pop song, where Ashcroft bemoans the story of a person who betrays a friend and tries to no avail to get back in their good graces. The album takes a turn with the track “Noise Epic”, which is just that, epic. McCabe and company build you up to such a point that it unexpectedly erupts into what could only be well, as surprising as it is punk. Jones hammers on the bass, while McCabe creates a whirlwind of sound that seems to blow up the label that the band was stuck with throughout the 90’s. “Valium Skies” could be a Tom Petty outtake. Not that that’s a bad thing by any means, as it is one of the stronger tracks on the album. With light instrumentation, “Appalachian Springs” closes the album providing a perfect crescendo to Forth.
After long break-ups, it’s rare that a new album will make us do anything more than dust off the band’s prior catalog. Forth is an exception. It will please casual and hardcore fans alike, proving once and for all, to the people at VH1 that The Verve is no “one hit wonder.”
“Love Is Noise”