More bittersweet symphonies from Mad Richard’s mod men after decade-long absence
“There’s no need for introductions,” sings Richard Ashcroft on “Rather Be,” one of the signature tracks from Forth, The Verve’s fourth album and first since splitting in 1999. True enough that Coldplay’s Chris Martin has called Ashcroft the “best singer in the world” and, in The Verve’s day, there were few more recognizable and spellbinding bands on the planet than these original Wigan wanderers. Reunions are typically crass affairs: Gigs are booked, money is made and the principals ultimately go about their lives as before, only wealthier. But Forth is an entirely different animal—the album will satisfy those wondering whether the band can achieve the nosebleed heights of its formidable back catalog (psst, it does: The swirling groover “Sit And Wonder,” the driving gospel rocker “Love Is Noise” and the liquid gold streaked through “Appalachian Springs” are as good as anything The Verve has recorded, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” excepted), and it’s once again evident that Ashcroft needs guitarist Nick McCabe, bassist Simon Jones and drummer Peter Salisbury to keep his shamanistic flights of fancy tethered to earth.