The Verve: Fourth (Album Review)
Squawk all you want about whether ’80s and ’90s alt-rock bands damage their credibility by re-forming after long absences — the truth is, such reunions aren’t always about cashing in on nostalgia.
Boston’s Mission of Burma has released two excellent albums since re-forming a few years ago, and the original, and famously fractious, lineup of the Amherst, Mass., trio Dinosaur Jr hasn’t lost a step on last year’s “Beyond.”
The Verve is another band that seemed irretrievably lost. The Brit-pop group had already broken up once before reconvening long enough to record its magnum opus, 1997’s “Urban Hymns,” and then dissolving again in 1999.
It took eight years, but the lure of such volatile creativity seems to have proven irresistible to singer Richard Ashcroft and his occasional mates. They re-formed late last year to tour and work on “Forth” (Megaforce), the Verve’s first album of new material in 11 years.
“Forth” is classic Verve, epic in scope, with layer upon layer of sound: spacey atmospherics on “Noise Epic,” clanging Floydian guitar on “Numbness” and an anthemic melody on “Love Is Noise,” the propulsive first single. It’s a stately album, but there’s a raw streak in Ashcroft’s wrenching vocals on “Valium Skies” and a surprising ray of optimism on the synth-soaked “Rather Be,” in which he expresses uncharacteristic contentment. “Is there anywhere better than here?” he asks.
If anything is missing from “Forth,” it’s the musical mood swings that made “Urban Hymns” such an electrifying listen: bursts of dissonant clamor giving way to simple and harrowing acoustic ballads that balloon into cinematic soundscapes. There’s little of that here, which makes for a ride that’s less convulsive and, in tone, more consistent.