Album: The Verve, Forth (Parlophone)

Come on baby, light my incense stick
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The Independent Culture

It's not an original observation to compare the Verve to the Doors, but let's roll with it: both were potentially good-to-great bands who were fatally tethered to earth by a lead singer with an ego the size of Madagascar and a shaman complex.

Which is one reason why the only people who have really been craving a fourth Verve album in the 11 years since 'Urban Hymns' are Richard Ashcroft and Nick McCabe's accountants. Who may be in for a disappointment. Over the past decade, the Verve's wig-out tendencies have been catered for by Kasabian and co, while their navel-gazing piano ballads have been adopted by Snow Patrol and co. All the wannabe Verves have rendered them commonplace, and meanwhile, the real Verve have rendered themselves indistinguishable. 'Forth' is a partial return to the freeform psych-rock of their 'A Storm in Heaven' days, reined in by Ashcroft's insistence of taking the sonic spotlight. Songs frequently top six minutes, but they still don't quite get the space to billow out in three dimensions, forever grounded by Ashcroft warbling banalities, baroque doggerel or mystic guff about "seeking answers". Consequently, rather than a fresh start, 'Forth' smells like last night's incense sticks.

Pick of the Album: It's a bit dancey: 'Love Is Noise'