The Verve – Urban Hymns (1997)

This is it, ladies and gentleman. The greatest of them all. It’s a musical nirvana here, and no, we are not talking about Kurt Cobain either.

This possibly could be the greatest album ever, or at least in the author’s opinion here. The reason? It’s the most positive and bold statement out there from an artist in all history. Yes, we are talking from classical music onto today’s postmodern 21st century offerings. It’s just great. So, here we go, let’s observe this, track by track.

The most famous song from here begins this album. Bittersweet Symphony is no doubt a great tune from the word go. It has a beautiful string section and pounding drumbeats, before launching into modern poetry about the beauty in life. Literally. Some great and memorable lyrics are here, concluding by saying: “I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down…” A truly great piece of music. It sounds semi psychedelic too. London was swinging again in the 1990’s for sure.

The next song is so wonderful. Sonnet is just that, modern day English poetry. It has some lyrics which are so inspired. “Eyes open wide, looking at the heavens with a tear in my eye.” It’s a very nice piece indeed. Great to listen to as well. The album sounds so well produced and mixed, a good example is this song.

The Rolling People is a psychedelic and hard rocking number. The lyrics here are really trippy and interesting. Guitarist Nick McCabe does really well here, showing that despite the tensions in the band, he could do an excellent job at artistry. The whole band pulls this off fantastically. A great job here, never a dull moment in the whole seven plus minutes or so that this goes on. A great piece. The outro is out there in terms of sonic production.

The Drugs Don’t Work is a sad lament about Richard Ashcroft’s father dying. It still sounds great, and was a hit single. But, all the same, it’s a melancholy piece about that subject. It’s a nice piece about losing a loved one, and has a beautiful string section to boot. Nice work here.

The next piece, the wah-wah and feedback heavy looped guitar parts of Catching The Butterfly arrives and we are dazzled as a result. It’s a great piece that has some great drumming in it, too. It has some artistic lyrics in it too, “In my lucid dreams”. Boy, can these guys make music! The band does very well here.

The brief glimpse of an urban trip Neon Wilderness arrives. It’s a short trip into oblivion with some great sound effects and heavily drug influenced lyrics. It’s a nice addition to the album, although not the best song on it. It’s still very good listening though. The harmonies are great here.

Space And Time is a beautiful piece. It combines destiny with love, and is so reassuring sounding that it makes you want more from the group. Richard Ashcroft pleads that he cannot make it alone, and has some romantic sensibilities in the music here at hand. It just sounds wonderful. A great tune.

Weeping Willow is a trippy song. It is much more rhythmic based than previous songs, and just seems a little weaker than the other songs. But, it is still a powerful statement nonetheless. It has some deep introspection here, mind you. “I hope you see what I see, I hope you feel what I feel…” It’s a great statement from Richard Ashcroft, with drug references towards the end. Like you noticed though.

The next song is so beautiful and wonderful, you will be dazzled in awe. Lucky Man should be a depression killer for anyone going through struggles. If you ever listen to this piece, consider yourself lucky. It’s an audio treat for everyone to hear. Brilliant. “I hope you understand,” sings Richard Ashcroft. We sure do on this record. It will bring tears of happiness to your eyes.

The slow ballad One Day is surreal and impressionistic in its approach. It’s another great piece to sink your teeth into. Some melodic riffs and Richard Ashcroft’s simple singing drive this piece along very well. It some ways it talks about personal sacrifice for happiness. But the song sounds so cheerful that it is a great listen indeed. There are repeated lyrics are here towards the end, giving the song emphasis. Another good song by The Verve.

This Time is a great melodic and wah-wah pedal based piece with melodies that are unforgettable. It’s about making things happen in life, and Nick McCabe’s playing on the guitar will inspire you to take your own musical interests further. It’s a great number here, and like all the others on the album, a great listen. There are some great arrangements here on this song for sure.

Velvet Morning is a super trippy piece with some subtle slide guitar as well. Sounding like a million dollars, it’s a drug influenced trip that will take you into the next dimension of music listening. It just works so well, along with all the other cuts on the album. The string section here is beautiful too. A nice effort by the group.

The last track is the Come On/Deep Freeze hybrid.

The former is a great jam based tune with great bassline and guitar parts to boot. It’s unlikely we have ever had something so good in musical history for a simple jam. Still, it sounds musically accomplished and thorough here. Even after the majority of the singing concludes, the jam breaks down musical barriers for us to enjoy. Brilliant.

After several minutes of silence, we have the interesting second part of the hybrid, which is a montage of excellent sounds. It sounds intellectually well thought out, and we finish the album here.

This album is damn near perfection, at least musically. Anybody who had a glimpse into the music of Britpop in the 1990’s, or who may just want a great positive spin on life musically should check out this album. It’s really that good. Fans should check out the deluxe remastered re-releases with loads of extra tracks, rarities and goodies on them.

An awesome listen.

10/10

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