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The Verve fought their way to the top of the Britpop pile with a series of triumphant, world-beating anthems, but since their dissolution, frontman Richard Ashcrofts muse has led him further into introspective, acoustic territory. Quite heartening, then, that his third album kicks off with a mighty burst of brass, an ecstatic Motown rhythm and in "Why Not Nothing?", one of his most bullish, headstrong lyrics in recent memory.
Ashcrofts new emphasis on classic-tinged soulfulness--a nice change from his occasional, unfortunate tendency towards lumpen Britpop blokeiness--permeates Keys To The World, a factor that sets it on a par with the likes of Wellers 2000 album Heliocentric in the return-to-form stakes. There are two real highlights though: the swooning "Words Just Get In The Way" should see some manly tears shed, an older, wiser uncle of Coldplays "Fix You" that offers a shoulder to cry on over a noble flourish of violins, while "World Keeps Turning" ends the album on a proud note, Ashcroft declaring "Everythin right in my life again" as the album gallops to a close.--Louis Pattison