Urban Hymns - The Verve
The Wigan five have often been remembered for this one extraordinary album even though they had two decent albums prior to the release of Urban Hymns in 1997. Initially I could not stand this album when I first heard it in the aftermath of Britpop hype. I found it inaccessible, lacking any coherent structure or interesting melodies. Oh how I was wrong. I decided to play it repeatedly several months later after having enough of the Coldplay drivel that dominated the charts.
If Oasis had brash, rock 'n' roll outlandishness to their songs and Pulp appealed to the marginalized indie kid who considered himself too ‘cerebral’ for the likes of Oasis, then Urban Hymns struck a line somewhere in the middle giving it unanimous appeal.
No formal introduction is necessary for the initial song that opens the floodgates of one of the best albums that soared out of the post-Britpop era. Bittersweet Symphony (track 1) has one of the most instantly recognisable, catchy violin riffs that any pop song has featured. Credit given where it is due - it was actually a Jagger and Richard’s riff - but the way The Verve treat it as their own, giving it that unique, pasty faced, greasy haired, indie feel is what makes it so special.
Nick McCabe’s guitar work on this album is often overlooked and underrated, it's not so much amazing technical skill that he possesses but more of an ability to play gracefully around Ashcroft’s haunting vocals. His little slide-guitar touches and distorting effects roll around the other instruments almost unnoticed, but without his influence all that would be left is a vacuous, colourless wall of sound.
Ashcroft’s lyrics are poetic, sung with a gentleness that belies his rugged, intense demeanour. Swinging from both sides of the emotional spectrum, The Drugs Don’t Work is an emotional track about the death of his father, whilst Lucky Man is more upbeat, describing his happiness with regards to life’s fortunes. I particularly like Neon Wilderness and Space and Time for the spaced out, introspective overtones that mirror the feeling one might have inebriated on alcohol or some other drug that gets you swimming in your own thoughts. Velvet Morning has got to be the ultimate soundtrack for that morning-after-the-night-before feeling where you wake up thinking your brain's been put through a blender.
There’s nothing on this album that acts as mindless filler; every song is a convincing masterpiece of highly charged juxtaposing feelings. The tumultuous relationships in the band and the love of music that bound them all together come across explosively with every track.
Reviewed by George for UKEvents.net
Proof Read by Alan for UKEvents.net
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