The Verve

Forth (On Your Own Records)

For some odd reason, American popular appreciation of Brit-pop seems to have occurred at opposing polarities of the phenomenon. We've begrudgingly granted acceptance (and commercial success) to the purposely detached, forced artistry of Radiohead on one extreme and the saccharine so-called sincerity of Coldplay on the other—more or less eliding the tuneful grandeur of better bands like Oasis, Travis, and, yes, The Verve in the process. This omission is America's loss, as these bands have consistently delivered superior product: smart and appealing pop-rock that should indeed be popular.

After a long hiatus, The Verve resumes their pursuit of pop immortality with Forth, and the results are about what one might expect, which is a good thing. The band's ace in the hole is vocalist Richard Ashcroft, a frontman who actually sings, yet studiously avoids the maddening reliance on falsetto endemic to his peers. Ashcroft and company pick up where they left off around a decade ago, with a selection of boldly melodic songs that rock in a way ideally suited for giant arena sing-alongs. A return to formula perhaps, but Forth's sonic strategy is a winning one.