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'Forth' was the long-awaited fourth album from Wigan band 'The Verve'. Coming 11 years after the excellent 'Urban Hymns', it's fair to say expectations were through the roof for this and it could only ever be a disappointment. What I wasn't expecting was a disappointment on the scale it managed though.
From the lead single 'Love is Noise' there was a feeling that something was wrong. When you use something sounding like a synthesised seagull as backing to the main singer who is making 'ooh ooh ooh' and 'aah aah ahh' noises it quickly becomes apparent that this is not going to be compared with their other anthems. To be fair it is a decent track and is reasonably catchy, just not a patch on any of the releases from 'Urban Hymns'. It is probably the most obvious single given it is fairly fast paced and doesn't contain large instrumental parts. It charted at number 4.
The second (and only other) single was 'Rather Be' which barely bothered the chart peaking at number 56. I was surprised at the lack of success for this track as to my mind it is easily the best on the album. Again, its not obvious single material and this is maybe what hurts it most. It's the kind of track which grows over time. The two singles are the second and third tracks on the disc, presumably to give a strong opening.
The album opens with 'Sit and Wonder'. I assume this would have been the third single had sales justified a third release. It is one of the stronger tracks and helps add to the quality of the first quarter.
I guess there is a fine line between a good album track and one which just meanders along. Unfortunately there are too many on 'Forth' which fall on the wrong side of the line. What is worse is most are in excess of six minutes. So it's a fair amount of time to listen to a track which has little purpose. 'Judas' and 'Numbness' are the most guilty of this and placed at four and five on the collection they spoil the opening that the first three tracks had established.
'I See Houses' is a step back in the right direction. Slightly shorter (but still over 5 minutes) and having a more defined chorus it is a safer track and works better for following a more standard format. A good solid album track.
When The Verve put epic in a song title you know its going to last a while. I have no problem with long tracks but 'Noise Epic' doesn't merit a place on the album, never mind taking up over 8 minutes on it. It sounds more like early session material cobbled together and it still amazes me that this ever made the final cut.
Thankfully 'Valium Skies' gets things back on track. It sounds more like Richard Ashcroft's solo material, rather than a Verve track. By no means a classic but a more coherent song than many of its predecessors.
The penultimate track 'Columbo' is another which sounds like they couldn't be bothered finishing it. It plods along, occasionally with Ashcroft signing in a higher pitch than usual (for no apparent reason). About 4 minutes in the track does find a bit of focus but again you are left with the impression you have stumbled upon some studio recordings rather than a final cut.
'Appalachian Springs' closes the album. By this point the last thing I wanted to hear was another 7min + plodder. Thankfully this one almost justifies the length and is a surprisingly strong closing track. It has a bizarre vocal addition that sounds like a TV playing in the background. That apart it is an excellent track and an indicator on what could have been. On an experimental (good get out clause for a substandard release) it is one of the few tracks which works.
Overall I would say this album starts well, has an extremely poor, bloated middle and end, before finding a good closing track. I managed to get two other bonus tracks, 'Mover' and 'Chic Dub'. Whilst 'Chic Dub' offers little more than what is contained on this collection I am surprised 'Mover' did not make it. It is a rockier sound and offers a good contrast to the rest of the album. I would recommend getting 'Mover' if you can.
Ultimately a disappointment, with the odd glimpse of promise.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Sit And Wonder
2 Love Is Noise
3 Rather Be
6 I See Houses
7 Noise Epic
8 Valium Skies
10 Appalachian Springs