808s / The UK's Greatest Hits

The UK’s Greatest Hits: 18: Urban Hymns – The Verve

The_Verve,_Urban_HymnsUrban Hymns – The Verve – 1997

First listen?: Yes

Probably the most surprising entry for me in the whole of the top 40, I had no idea The Verve were so massive in the late 90s. I knew Bittersweet Symphony was and still is a massive song, used in at least one TV show or film for the last 15 years. I knew The Drugs Don’t Work was a festival anthem both by The Verve and covered by others. What I didn’t realise was just how popular The Verve were and that they would appear this high in the list. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, my mum had and regularly listened to this album, so I knew it existed sure, but I had underestimated Urban Hymns a lot. As an album I can see why fans and critics alike were impressed at the time. It’s a real step forward for the Brit Pop sound, a bit more expansive in scale than the music Oasis and Blur had been releasing a track like Catching The Butterfly floats around, a drone of guitar moving in and out. Come On keeps a similar tone, but adds in a propelling speed to the sound. The whole thing is much more music driven than hook driven, something that sets it apart of the typical Britpop you would think of. Urban Hymns is more of a Sunday evening chillout at Glastonbury album than a Saturday night headline slot one. I actually quite enjoyed it, though I imagine it takes a few listens to get your head around. The most impressive thing for me is the layering of sound, especially on a song like Sonnet. Strings, guitars and Richard Ashcroft’s voice flit in and out effortlessly, it’s immersive throughout. Each song  on Urban Hymns feels like it’s taken time and patience, not just a few runthroughs and then hit record. I quite like that. I guess the British public does too. Enough to put it way into the top 20 albums of all time.

Rating: 7/10

Will I listen again?: Probably not.

Best Track: Bittersweet Symphony

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