Saturday, August 16, 2008

Final Thoughts on Forth (I Promise)

Bar perhaps “Judas”, there’s nothing new here; and for a band, well a frontman, so obsessed with being important and superior, that’s pretty damning. Take “Numbness”, for instance, which stands at the centre of the record; it’s little more than a meandering Pink Floyd imitation. So many old formulas and tricks are trotted out again – just witness Ashcroft’s opening line to “Love Is Noise”, which finds him once again stealing words from William Blake, and from the most obvious parts of Blake’s output; his source now is “Jerusalem” rather than “London”. Next album (if they make one, which is massively unlikely given recent onstage spats), maybe Richard will try and find a clumsy metaphor or allusion to squeeze “Tyger, Tyger” into. Someone once said of The Verve that “the original bits aren’t good, and the good bits aren’t original”. They’re actually a very conservative group.

It’s Ashcroft who’s the problem; it’s his voice, his lyrics, his guiding hand, and his persona, that I don’t like. In “Appalachian Springs” he sings “solitude / my sacred mood”, and I want to slap him. His snarling and growling is exciting when couched in the context of the exhilarating finale to “Noise Epic”, but in the middle of anything more delicate or tuneful, it’s almost completely out of place. He doesn’t sound romantic or emotional or spiritual, but aggressive, threatening. Or else in a not inconsiderable amount of physical pain.

The failure to title “Noise Epic” with any more imagination is ominous, actually, and perhaps suggests that the band couldn’t get out of the studio (and into the lucrative summer festival schedule) fast enough. A Parlophone executive recently revealed, romantically (in Music Week), that Forth’s release has been timed to coincide with the start of the football season in order to capture a motivated and hungry 24-35-year-old male demographic. Nice. It’s not quite how you’d imagine a band so preternaturally obsessed with ‘soul’ would go about making and selling a record.

Further evidence of The Verve's lack of desire to spend much time in a room together, if it's needed, comes from the fact that much of the album sounds like portions of jams stuck together perfunctorily and sung over by Ashcroft – most obviously “Columbo”. For many people, me included, this is actually a bonus (my favourite Verve song is probably the near-instrumental “Brainstorm Interlude”, which is all about the stormy, psychedelic spontaneity), but I doubt it will do much for the football crowd.

What else is there? The title of “I See Houses” puts me in mind of the chorus to “One Of Those Rivers”, one of the better songs from the laregly execrable Free Peace Sweet album by Dodgy. The song itself is nice enough, with a pretty piano line and stereotypical McCabe swooshing, but again, Ashcroft’s repetitious lyrics and cod-soulful growling brings it down.

It’s this band’s troubled internal dynamic, the antipathy that sparks into aggression, that the football crowd love, though. Just look at the recent press photo above, and you can see the problems – Ashcroft and McCabe clearly told to sit next to each other in order to visually reaffirm their relationship, only Ashcroft dominates the entire bench, legs astride like an alpha-male ape desperate to lord his superior testicles over his subordinates, his sidemen squeezed uncomfortably around him.


louis said...

I tried to listen to this straight through, gave up somewhere near the end of "Judas" :D

"Noise Epic" is good tho.

louis said...

Anyway, screw a new Verve album, when are Wigan's finest psych-rockers Engineers gonna re-form?