The Verve - Urban Hymns album review

Twentieth-anniversary splurge of lad-rock milestone, now with B-sides and session tracks

Cover art for The Verve - Urban Hymns album

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After three years of feeling supersonic, Wigan band The Verve’s third album acted as a sonic wake-up call for the Britpop-addled masses. ‘You’re a slave to the money then you die,’ boomed Verve singer Richard Ashcroft in the The Andrew Oldham Orchestra-sampling chart-topper Bitter Sweet Symphony, while The Drugs Don’t Work was the most morose No.1 since Terry Jacks’s Seasons In The Sun.

Ten million sales later, this remastered version of Urban Hymns still packs a punch, due largely to the contributions of errant guitarist Nick McCabe. Having left the band 18 months earlier, his last-minute playing adds a ghostly shimmer to country-rock anthem Lucky Man and propels space-jams Catching The Butterfly and Neon Wilderness to the kind of stratospheric peaks scaled on earlier albums A Storm In Heaven and Northern Soul. Seven-minute epic The Rolling People, meanwhile, remains fire-and-brimstone proof that the Britpop era wasn’t all Adidas and cockney accents. Click-bait for fans, meanwhile, comes in the form of 11 scorching live tracks from their home-town Haigh Hall mega-gig in ’98.

The Verve would never fly so high again. Within a year they had split up.

Paul Moody is a writer whose work has appeared in the Classic Rock, NME, Time Out, Uncut, Arena and the Guardian. He is the co-author of The Search for the Perfect Pub and The Rough Pub Guide.