I'd definitely like to throw in my two cents on this one... I think this is my first post in about two years. I got into The Verve's music five or so years ago through Urban Hymns and I definitely consider that to be my favorite album by any artist. I gradually picked up all of their other albums and collected a number of singles and bootlegs, and I gotta say I like it all a lot. I've really enjoyed Forth as well, and I think it adds something to what they've already done.
The main reason I love Urban Hymns (and A Northern Soul, for that matter) has to be the lyrics. There's a lot to be said for Ashcroft's lyrics on those albums because they're reflective while still remaining accessible; it's pretty deep stuff that makes you think but it's easy to relate to. I still play both of those albums regularly after all these years because of that. However, I really feel like McCabe's guitar work got pushed to the back on Urban Hymns. In my opinion, Urban Hymns doesn't really have as much of the "Verve" sound as A Storm in Heaven or A Northern Soul. There's much more acoustic strumming by Ashcroft and standard electric guitar fare in place of McCabe's normal effects. Some tracks like Neon Wilderness are definitely exceptions to that, but in general I do think that Urban Hymns has a very mainstream sound that is too far devoid of their original sound.
First and foremost, I don't think that Forth is as introspectively deep an album as Urban Hymns on the whole. It has its moments, but they're sprinkled throughout as opposed to being in every track, and none of the lyrics have slapped me over the head like Urban Hymns did. What I do love about the album, though, is that it seems to merge the style of Urban Hymns and lyric-focused songs with their early work. I think Forth has the most ethereal sound they've attained so far, which is probably what lots of folks are calling "guitar noodling." You may or may not like it yourself, but I love it, and I think that the overall sound of Forth is very evocative of the Verve EP. In particular, songs like A Man Called Sun, Endless Life, and Feel would fit in very well on Forth. As much as I do love their early work on The Verve EP and A Storm in Heaven, it hasn't had the same staying power over the years for me because there's really not a lot being said. For now, I feel like Forth has done a good job bridging the gap. I'll let you know in a few years if I'm still listening to it. :P
With that said, Forth does have some downsides. Judas is, to me, a terrible song. Its then followed by Numbness, which repeats the same line over and over beyond my breaking point. In turn, this is followed by I See Houses, which I think borrows pages lyrically from songs on Urban Hymns. Even Ashcroft says "I feel like I've been here before." Fortunately, those are the only three tracks I don't care for, and they're all in a line for easy skipping. I hated Love is Noise at first, but it grows on me each time I hear it and I think it's a good single for the album. I really enjoy every other song on the album.
Also, I ordered the deluxe edition of the album that came with a DVD that has a documentary about the tour and five live songs from Coachella. It was definitely a waste of money at $35 shipped and I don't recommend it even for longtime fans. The "documentary" is all of 17 minutes long and they only talk to Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, and countless fans on the street waiting for the show. The live songs included are Sonnet, This is Music, The Rolling People, Lucky Man, and Love is Noise. Unless you must see one of those songs live, I'd stick with the regular album. In general though, I absolutely recommend Forth to anyone who has enjoyed a previous Verve album, and hopefully it will create new fans!