Circa 2008, a new album by The Verve seems like a hope-for-the-best/prepare-for-the-worst proposition. The British band broke up—for the second and seemingly final time—in 1999, after a trio of solid albums and in the wake of two hits, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "The Drugs Don't Work." Frontman Richard Ashcroft went on to a solo career that vacillated between middling and god-awful, though he still scored commercially in Europe. Forth proves that The Verve still has it, and it's all about chemistry. (Take that as a joke about the band's once-prodigious drug use if you'd like.) The original lineup, which reunited in 2007, strikes a balance between Ashcroft's love of wistful ballads and its original purpose: woozy, sometimes rollicking shoegazing. Forth sounds like all eras of The Verve mashed together into one potent stew: There's epic noise (the tellingly titled "Noise Epic"), goopy, hazy balladry ("Valium Skies"), and at least one irresistible single, "Love Is Noise," whose hook is a jaunty nonsense backing vocal. Sure, Ashcroft still manages to stumble when he tries to make nothing-lyrics sound weighty ("I sit and wonder / I often wonder 'bout the things she does"), but when he's got the rest of The Verve to back him, even the silliest sentiments (here's looking at you, "Numbness") get lost in washes of beauty. Keep it together, Verve, keep it together.
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