The Verve - Forth (3 stars)

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The Verve - Forth

(Parlophone)

PSYCH-ROCK

Even their most evangelical of fans – of which there are still plenty – might have doubted The Verve’s reformation. Much of the solo material of the previously unimpeachable Richard Ashcroft flattered to deceive, and none of it looked like detracting from one of the most perfectly formed career trajectories in recent rock history. From their early post-shoegazer underground days, through time spent on the outside of Britpop-mania, and then triumphant, commercial comeback with Urban Hymns, the Wigan space warriors left a legacy to be proud of.

So now comes their much-belated return with Forth (their fourth album, naturally), and perhaps the faintest praise it may be damned with is that it doesn’t spoil the legacy of what has gone before. Much like Ashcroft’s lone albums, the overriding tone is one of settled contentment, with patches of self-doubt gathering on the horizon. The singer may be cajoling us to ‘recognise the righteous anger’ during ‘Love is Noise’, but the comeback single is a charming radio song more than a barricade-storming call to arms.

Among the other single-worthy tracks, the quality is variable. ‘Sit and Wonder’ is a nicely urgent mood-setting piece, but it’s no ‘This is Music’, while tracks like ‘Rather Be’ and ‘Appalachian Skies’ are more Songs of Praise than Urban Hymns in their tuneful pleasantries. Like Morrissey and Marr or Brown and Squire, however, Ashcroft’s voice and Nick McCabe’s guitar fit together perfectly. The ghostly funk of ‘Columbo’, and the wide-eyed flashback on ‘Noise Epic’ to psych epics past are the tracks that will make long-time Verve disciples most pleased to have them back together.

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