Sunday, August 31, 2008

Album Review - The Verve


I would say I'm a huge fan - not of The Verve, necessarily - but of their 1997 album Urban Hymns. It's an album that ranks among my Top 5 albums of all time... in a personal sense, anyway. Almost every song on that Brit-pop-psychedelic-rock album was perfect and at the tender age of 18 (or maybe I was 19 when I really discovered it), amidst all the most passionately dramatic moments of my young life, it left an indelible impression on me.

And then one day... POOF! They were gone. Without warning, the band broke up and it seemed like that was it - a shooting star that dies out into nothingness before you even really can conceive of what you've just seen. Lead singer Richard Ashcroft popped up here and there with solo albums over the last decade, but that was about it.

Then, just within the last year, the band had gotten back together and made this new album. There is a God.

Forth, the band's ironically-titled fourth album, has been 11 years in the making/waiting. (As is the case with the previous album review of Extreme's comeback album,) you don't usually see a reunion that comes off quite this strong. The old feeling of The Verve is certainly there - the hypnotic trances into which these songs send the listener are pleasurably familiar. This is definitely the album the band would have made a year or two after Urban Hymns if they hadn't broken up. There's barely a hint of anything in this album to suggest a decade-long chasm in the band's relationship - nothing here to show that any time has past at all.

They don't, however, match the elegant brilliance of Urban Hymns, or if they do, it's in quality only - certainly not in quantity. Whereas Hymns had about 6 or 7 amazing tracks, and all the rest were merely "pretty damned good", Forth comes in with about 3 or 4 amazing tracks. But, like Hymns did all those years ago, this new release is still growing on me.

My initial reaction was that it just wasn't nearly as good as Hymns - but for some reason, I kept playing it. The songs that hadn't initially popped out at me with great power were slowly becoming more familiar and more enjoyable and I never got bored of it (like I so often do with most other albums these days). So, there's a long shelf-life to Forth, and the more you play it the more you like it.

This is also one of those albums you simply have to play on a really good stereo system if you want to experience the full force of its power. Even in headphones, you're only getting half the juice. Played on a nice big sound system and cranked up to a slightly-too-high volume, you're sure to feel the magic contained within this record.

If you aren't or never were a fan of The Verve, this album may not be for you. But if you've never even heard of this band, check out "Bittersweet Symphony" on iTunes, and when you hear yourself say "Oh ya! I've heard this before! I do like this song!", then you'll know it's time to experience the rest of Urban Hymns. If you dig it, then you'll dig Forth. Or, you could just sample the epic, pop-rocker off this album, "Love Is Noise", which - even with its U2-esque/"Beautiful Day" feeling - certainly doesn't pack the punch that "Bittersweet Symphony" did back in 1997, but it's a decent follow-up all these years later.

Forth is the album that leads me to believe that The Verve are more than a flash-in-the-pan, shooting-star band. Now, I have to go out and get their first two albums and find out what I've been missing all these years.

My favorite tracks:
Love Is Noise
Rather Be
I See Houses

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