The Verve album Urban Hymns' music is known as an indie jewel in the crown
Taking a quick look at the masterpiece as the album turns 25
English alternative/indie rock band The Verve's 1997 album Urban Hymns, which was released on September 29, is known to have touched a raw nerve throughout the world. Considered an album with songs of emotional and musical profundity, it is appreciated for encapsulating the zeitgeist. The band was known to have progressed from a highly regarded indie favourite to a steadfast rock colossus. Urban Hymns, a recognised classic, is reportedly one of the best-selling albums ever in the United Kingdom.
After receiving almost universally positive reviews upon release, the album went on to become the band's best-selling record and one of the year's top-selling albums. Urban Hymns has sold more than ten million copies globally as of 2019, ranking as the 19th best-selling album in the history of the UK chart.
The album gave rise to three hugely popular singles. The first was the historical global hit Bitter Sweet Symphony, which served as both the album's trailer and the summertime anthem followed by the No. 1 song in the UK, The Drugs Don't Work, and then, Lucky Man.
Known to be distinct for its grandiose and anthemic composition, it was co-produced by the band members together with English rock band Killing Joke’s founding member and bassist, Youth and British record producer Chris Potter. The Verve’s lead guitarist Nick McCabe and lead vocalist and songwriter, Richard Ashcroft were the main powers behind carrying out the band's concept. The songs' well-acclaimed whimsy, innocence, and overt romanticism are the result of Ashcroft's lyricism, whose primary focus dealt with existential weariness and despair. Throughout all the thirteen songs, Ashcroft leans toward the grimmer, more melancholy aspects of early adulthood.
One of the simpler songs to understand is Bitter Sweet Symphony, which serves as both the album's opening track and the lead single. Ashcroft sings about using one's initiative to overcome the soul-sucking, thankless grind of the material world, with music considered to provide much-needed relief in his lyrics, “I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now". In 2017, Ashcroft reportedly said, "As for 'Bitter Sweet Symphony,' all those legal wrangles still don't take away the hours I spent into it in the studio to make an amazing work of pop art."
The exhaustive song The Rolling People is the album's longest tune as it pays homage to the band's earlier, more free-form sound on A Storm in Heaven. As is the dissonant, reverb-heavy Come On, which briefly features Liam Gallagher, lead vocalist and part-time songwriter of another English rock band Oasis.
The majority of listeners also list This Time as one of their favourites from the album in which “No time for sad lament / A wasted life is bitter spent” and "Into a light, I pass / Another dream, another spent / This time, this time / This time I'm going to rise" are just a few of the catchy refrains that convey the song's overarching message of acknowledging past regrets and moving on with life as best we can.