Urban Hymns

CD Cover The Verve

Review by Darren Gawle

45-second excerpt from "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (various formats)

O.K., so what I'm really saying is basically 'I liked the Verve before anyone else' -- but that is about the size of it. They were a private joy, then -- you could clutch them to your breast and smile sweetly as Mad Richard and the boys flailed around semi-fruitlessly, knowing that, yes, they were going to be huge some day, and you'd gotten on the bus at just the right moment. Well, here they are after two and a half years, a breakup, a new member, and a 'spiritual adviser' with their third album. And boy, is it huge.

Problem is (yes, I'm the bastard who has to find fault with everything) it seems that there are a clutch of bands around now who could have come up with Urban Hymns. Certainly Kula Shaker could put out an album of songs that sound like "The Rolling People" (although the track is quintessential Verve), and the half-dozen or so semi-acoustic tracks don't stand that much apart from the half-dozen or so acoustic tracks on the Charlatans' last album. It seems here that the Verve disappeared for a couple of years, only to return and find that Oasis had turned into the Uranium-235 of modern music, contaminating everything in England with their presence. What the Verve does, of course, is raise the standards of 'Noelrock' a welcome degree.

The real gem in Urban Hymns is that it establishes Chris Potter as the producer to watch. "Neon Wilderness" sounds masterfully disassociated and dreamy, and like all good production efforts, "One Day" doesn't just sound good, it feels good. So the Verve now have more company in their world of sound than they're probably comfortable with; at least, provided you know where to stick it, size does matter.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on February 1, 1998

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