Never has the role of the self-worshipping, ego-tripping rock star been portrayed as sharply as by Ashcroft, the lanky former lead of the Verve, who sent up himself in a memorable video for the British band's 1997 hit "Bitter Sweet Symphony." Looking like a cross between Mick Jagger and Patti Smith, Ashcroft strutted down a busy city sidewalk, pushing aside mothers with prams, schoolchildren, commuters and other mere mortals unlucky enough to cross his path.
Now, alas, the Verve is defunct, having fallen victim to its members' volatile egos. Here, on his first solo album, Ashcroft, 28, returns with his musical swagger undiminished. And justifiably so. As he did with the Verve, Ashcroft sings compelling romantic laments that brim with bruised soul. With lush, soaring melodies and propulsive guitars set against string and horn arrangements held in tight rhythmic rein, these 11 power ballads, statements of regret and pledges to reform, percolate and seethe with muted emotion.