Human Conditions (Hut/Virgin)
By: Cam Lindsay
The Verve seems like a lifetime ago. "All In The Mind", "She's A Superstar", A Storm In Heaven, A Northern Soul, even "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and Urban Hymns seem decades old. Maybe it's because there really hasn't been any of the effort and quality put into whatever recordings have come post-Verve 1998. And while Urban Hymns was no A Northern Soul, at least it was the sound of a band that knew how good it was and discovered what the people wanted.
Five years later, with one solo album already in the bag, Richard Ashcroft can at least say that he is ahead of his former bandmates. Though his debut was mediocre, radio-friendly wank, it was good to hear something, anything from the man who voiced one of the 90s best and most exciting rock bands. Unfortunately, Human Conditions is no Alone With Everybody, which shows that the man has run out of creative gas.
Beginning with the unnecessary epic single "Check The Meaning" (eight minutes is painful without The Verve backing him up), the album never hits its high point. Though the song may grow on you after enough listens, it's still sub par material from Mad Dick. His knack for using a string section has continued to rise to a level of abuse on the listener. There is only so much a person can listen to in the vein of pop music that includes strings. Normally, artists like to keep it to a minimum to avoid redundancy, however Ashcroft doesn't know of such limits.
Most disappointing of all is the collaboration with Mr. Madness himself, Brian Wilson. If there ever was such a pointless partnership in music it is this. Wilson's voice barely appears in the background on this track, and when it does, it is for the smallest micro-second. Whatever else he contributed to the song is a mystery, because it really sounds no different from the other nine tracks, other than Ashcroft adopting a comical Elvis accent.
Whenever The Verve reunite, maybe then Ashcroft can go back to creating great and meaningful music. As for right now, he's failing miserably, alone with nobody. C.