“You know I’m losing my grip / I lost my touch,” Richard Ashcroft sings on United Nations Of Sound, perhaps a bit too tellingly. The former Verve frontman goes on to explain he’s “got the crown” and he’s “never gonna lay it down,” which only proves how loose his grasp actually is on his first solo record in five years. Especially on a clunker like “Beatitudes,” a half-assed bid for Gorillaz-dom that winds up sounding like an MOR slab of treated guitars and canned synths. Top-40 rap producer No I.D. tries to bring some juice to United Nations Of Sound, plying Ashcroft’s songs with strings, inventive percussion, and the bold inclusion of funk-tinged boudoir guitar. But Ashcroft himself is disappointingly meager. For a man with a true gift for epic pomposity, he’s mostly dull here, whether he’s trying to conjure the spirit of John Lee Hooker on “How Deep Is Your Man” or inexplicably crooning like Prince on the closer, “Let My Soul Rest.” He redeems himself a bit by proving he can still get his chops up for a song about sex (“Good Lovin’”), but goes creatively limp minutes later when he attempts a sleepy-headed freestyle on “Royal Highness”: “I gotta do my shit and get the fuck outta here / Fly home and drink a German beer.” If the drugs didn’t work, a Bock probably ain’t gonna do the trick either.