It's been a decade since The Verve's last release, which got them worldwide fame – and the pressure with it. A tumultuous breakup put their success in jeopardy forever, but in reuniting, they triumphantly bring their mind-massaging rock back while adding ten years of wisdom to their anthemic sound. And Forth, their only album of the new millennium begs the question: how many great albums would they have released?
Forth is an overall dark mix that extends the ballads found on Urban Hymns, but is awash with thicker psychedelics and Richard Ashcroft's most pained lyrics to date. The first single is the galloping, but tormented, "Love Is Noise" where Ashcroft laments modernity and love with new, intense dejection. "I See Houses" and "Valium Skies" reveal a disconnection between Ashcroft and the world while the band mixes ornate lounge rock and arena-ready crescendos with his emotional swings. Seems like a rough time off, at least for him.
The average track length on Forth is longer than any album before, which points towards the band's stronger focus. It's obvious that they've come back wiser and more relaxed than before. "Judas" shimmers with velvet couch coolness and "Numbness" is a jazz-rock epic, drifting in and out of consciousness for nearly seven minutes. Maybe the train's a just a little bit older and harder to stop, but the ride's smoother and the scenery's better.
As far as reunion albums go, Forth is about as good as anyone can hope for. Leaving the game in 1999 with worldwide hits in the palms of their hands, The Verve was a reunion wet dream for years and with the passing time, expectations only grew. On Forth, the band has taken a more serious direction, but remains their essential selves, and, at the same time, proves how strong a force they not only are, but were.