Album: The Verve, Forth (Parlophone)

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The Independent Culture

Rarely can rampant self-regard and billowing emptiness have combined to such vacuous effect as they do in The Verve, and particularly in Richard Ashcroft, a singer so driven by the mere idea of rock stardom that he either doesn't want, or know how, to sing about anything that isn't primarily designed to persuade us of his tortured depths.

There's no attempt at imaginative projection here, no deftly drawn characters or character development – just a succession of vague, grating juvenilia like "love is pain", "numbness on the brain" and, my personal favourite, "solitude, my sacred mood", all delivered in a posey transatlantic accent shorn of all traces of Wigan, as Ashcroft retreats further into his empty rock'n'roll fantasy world.

"Something's going on inside my head," he frets hopefully in "Sit and Wonder"; a shame, then, that it never manifests itself in his lyrics. The band's music lurches steadily back to the amorphous psych-rock of their earliest albums as they vainly search for a melody worth hanging a song on. Bogus in both sound and spirit.

Pick of the album:'Love Is Noise'

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