Open your copy of the English Rock Star Handbook and look up "40th birthday" — it's in the index between "football-team purchase" and "fucking models." As you'll see, every English rock star is required to celebrate this milestone with an overblown album about God, humanity and the cosmos. Richard Ashcroft — the Verve stud who sang "Bitter Sweet Symphony" — rises to the looming occasion with goop-gospel ballads like "Are You Ready?," where he yearns to take "the whole damn human race" in a "love embrace." He also ponders religion ("Beatitudes"), the ladies ("She Brings Me the Music") and old Prince songs ("This Thing Called Life").
Listen to "Are You Ready?":