31 October 1997

Fan Review: Urban Hymns (1)

When asked to name a contemporary British band, most Americans list off Oasis or Blur, however, Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Peter Salisbury, Simon Jones, and Simon Tong, the members of Verve, who herald from Wigan, England, plan to change that. I got into the Verve with their second album, A Northern Soul (1995), and after I got hooked, the band split up and I wasn't sure that anything new would ever be released.

To counter what I thought was history, another sad end to a truly great band, never fulfilling lead singer, Richard Ashcroft's desire to be part of the biggest band in the world. Happily however, Verve was reunited once again in March of this year, and has done some impressive things since, culminating in the release of Urban Hymns this month. Bittersweet Symphony, the first single released from UH hit number 2 in the UK charts and The Drugs Don't Work, the second single from UH went straight to number 1 in the UK charts when it was released. Neither single has received the same attention here in the USA, but the release of UH September 30 should change that. The Verve is nominated for Best Alternative Act by MTV Europe along with Radiohead, Blur, Spiritualized.

Urban Hymns is a complete departure from the early psychadelica of EP (1992) and A Storm in Heaven (1993) and the experimentation of A Northern Soul. It is most evident in the stuck-in-your-head passacaglia motif in the string section. In my opinion, starting the album off with ISSUE' was perfect, it sounds very reverential, fitting for an album named Urban Hymns. The Verve are a religion and they are converting souls through UH. ISSUE' will appeal to many people who have never heard Verve before. Youth, the former Killing Joke bassist, produced this track as well as Sonnet and The Drugs Don't Work which definitely share similarities.

For Verve fans of old, Rolling People will shake you up. The song jams and makes you want to dance and scream VERVE IS BACK!!!!!! It has a strong psychedelic feel in the beginning due to Nick McCabe's incredible guitar skills. Catching The Butterfly, Neon Wilderness, and Come On recall the more familiar Verve sound of old, a little more free form than other tracks on UH. Richard Ashcroft's vocals are playing a much stronger role on this album than those past, as heard in Space and Time, Weeping Willow, Lucky Man, One Day, and Velvet Morning.

All in all, this is an album, a very cohesive unit, and one which will bring the Verve acclaim here in the USA. It is a very different sound, not as daring as their previous albums which is going to produce mixed reactions from their long time fans. This new sound will attract more American fans though. I recommend buying this album, but Don't stop there, if you are new to the Verve. A Storm in Heaven and A Northern Soul are an essential part of your collection as well.

Verve will be playing at the Roxy theater on Nov. 1, 1997. Tickets go on sale Oct. 3 through Ticketmaster.
  • Source: Verve-Tribute: A tribute to what was website
  • Review by Laura