Review Summary: The Verve set things straight and release a pleasing album that is due not to disappoint.
The Verve have had an up and down history resulting in a break up, a reunion, another break up, and another reunion. Although their history is reminiscent of a roller coaster, their music surely isn’t.
They formed in Wigan, Greater Manchester in 1989. As time grew, they went through a patch of ups and downs. Upon their first break up in 1996, The Verve released two LPs entitled A Storm in Heaven and A Northern Soul.
The band quickly reunited and released the album Urban Hymns in 1997 which was critically acclaimed and voted by listeners as one of the best albums of the year.
By the time of their second break up in 1999, The Verve had left a lasting legacy that only a few other 90’s Brit Pop bands could claim. With other acts such as Oasis and Blur, The Verve were part of an everlasting onslaught that caught on quick here in America during the 90’s. They are best known for their song “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, which has been covered by numerous acts including Madonna and Kayne West.
Known by many as British Pop, The Verve are much more than that. They can also be categorized as psychedelic rock, space rock, and shoegazing, which is a form of British alternative rock that started in the 80’s.
They are now storming back after their second reunion spitting out their fourth full length LP entitled "Fourth" due out on August 26.
The album itself carries ten tracks and sports cover art that makes the average man want to gallop. On the front cover, clouds fill up most of the landscape while taking in sun resulting in a picturesque scene that could definitely take home “Best Album Cover of the Year Award.” The Verve and the album title Fourth are dressed up in a tidy font and are neatly placed in the center of the whole outlook.
Besides boasting a powerful album cover, The Verve deliver ten heart numbing tracks that make even the casual listener shiver with excitement.
The opening track “Sit and Wonder” sets the tone for the whole album as it delivers a spacey intro that’s quickly accompanied by a smooth bass riff, chilly drums that’ll keep your mind on the song, and a quirky guitar riff that plays as a structure for what lead singer Richard Ashcroft really wants to get out to the listener. However, it may not be clear what Ashcroft wants the listeners to know. He fills the whole song with mysterious lines that make you think about the topic to a certain extent, but are clear enough to enjoy the song as a whole. (And she’s the teacher and I’m the pupil but I ain’t learning anything at all/Now I’m falling into the black hole and I can barely feel the sun.)
The second track on the album is “Love is Noise” which is also the opening single for the album. This song seems to fall into the typical first hit single category as it boasts very powerful sounds all while keeping everything in tone. There are no unnecessary fills, and it follows a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge format. The format it follows however is not a bad thing. In fact, the song is one of the most enjoyable on the album as it carries Ashcroft’s voice through it all being strung by piano, guitar, bass, and drums that help make the song what it is…a hit.
Several tracks on "Fourth" carry very strong choruses that help reinstate everything The Verve are trying to convey (“Sit and Wonder”, “I See Houses”), and some songs on the album are flat out stout (“Judas”, “Noise Epic”). In the song “Judas”, Richard talks about buying coffee in New York and having dreams to fulfill your life. (Cry for the things that happen/People need to know/And for a dream to happen/You gotta let it go.) With these songs, The Verve put out a sound that can only be called their own, which helps make this album unique in so many ways.
One song on the album that may take its rating down a notch is “Rather Be.” Although this song is musically sound, and is actually quite beautiful, it seems like it never really takes off. For five and a half minutes the song gets pulled along by stringy guitars and a soft funk drum sound. Ashcroft is a little too light, and seems to lack enthusiasm in his rendition of the song.
“Rather Be” aside, there are times on this album where it seems like The Verve put together the perfect sound. With Ashcroft boasting powerful hymns, lead guitarist Nick McCabe strings together riffs that flawlessly stream with the words being sung. In “Valium Skies”, the chorus pits the two together creating one of the best sounding choruses in 2008. Chattering drums fill the headphones, while Ashcroft boasts about breathing in all the air he needs from the sky above.
The latter half of the album continues to present itself in grand fashion with songs like “Noise Epic”, “I See Houses”, and “Columbo”.
In “Noise Epic”, all four band members seamlessly come together as one single unit to create one of the greatest thrillers on the album. Starting out very slow, “Noise Epic” spits out with a guitar riff and drum accompaniment that pulls the listener in. As Ashcroft’s voice comes in, the sound suddenly seems to build up for something massive. Simon Jones spits out the perfect bass line throughout the song as Peter Salisbury presents faultless drum riffs to make the most absolute bass/drum groove on the album. McCabe delivers another star stellar job on lead guitar, and it almost seems like you’re listening to an old Led Zeppelin track. The latter half of the song may be the best, so don’t skip the track if you’re disappointed (I know you won’t be). At the six and a half minute mark the song unleashes all of its fury conjured throughout the buildup. Ashcroft preaches “I’ve got spirit!” and is backed by the rest of the band as they jam hard reinstating the three word line.
The closing track on the album is “Appalachian Springs”. The first 30 seconds play out as if Pink Floyd were closing the album, with spacey guitar riffs and a bass line that would make Roger Waters smile in his sleep. Once again, Ashcroft brings together a bunch of lyrics that make the listener think deeply about the material at hand (Solitude my secret mood/Appalachian springs on my things). From beginning to end “Appalachian Springs” brings the heat and intensity. As the listener gets deeper into the song, everything builds up and soon explodes into a euphoric hymn, which makes “Appalachian Springs” a perfect closing song for the album.
"Fourth" is the perfect album for any modern rock or alternative fan. What it has to offer is incredible when compared to other acts that are famous today. The album itself consists of different genres mixing and matching throughout songs, layering themselves out so the perfect blend of smooth rock ensues. “Rather Be” boasts a piano-driven track that appeals to the placid melodic determined fan, while “Sit and Wonder” gives itself to the fans that enjoy consistent rock jams that could go on for hours. The album also gives itself up to psychedelic rock that appears spacey and out of this world, with “Noise Epic” being the perfect example. This album is a must have for those who enjoy Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, U2, and The Rolling Stones. However, it would do well for anyone who enjoys solid rock mixed with a smidgen of space and a bit of psychedelica.