James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 21: Urban Hymns

James Proclaims (6)

We’re now at the part of the A-Z Challenge that is all about ‘U’.

“About time,” ‘U’ must be saying.

And I’m sorry I had to make ‘U’ wait.

However, there are 20 letters that come before ‘U’ in the alphabet.

But they’ve had their time and now we finally get to ‘U’.


U is for Urban Hymns


If the phenomenon known as Britpop was beginning to decline by 1997 then someone forgot to tell Richard Ashcroft.

Because ‘Urban Hymns’ was about to launch a dysfunctional and fairly unknown band called The Verve very firmly into the spotlight.

Although they’d enjoyed some moderate success with their very decent second album, ‘A Northern Soul’, they had, to that point, been largely overlooked by the record-buying public, who had bestowed greater fortunes on inferior bands.

If you’d asked me before 1997 if I’d heard of The Verve, I could have answered yes, but mainly because their song ‘History’ was on a compilation album I owned, back when owning compilation albums was a thing. I liked the track, but this was pre-Internet, or at least prior to the ubiquity of the Internet (which is a weird thing to write but it really was) and I couldn’t very easily check out the rest of their material. I had no intention of buying their album on the basis of one song. I just didn’t have enough pocket money for that kind of frivolity (actually I would have had a Saturday job by then but I thought pocket money made for a funnier sentence. I’ve now ruined that by adding this, but I don’t want you to think I was some kind of workshy teenager who relied on his parents to pay for everything. I was and I tried to, but they made me get a Saturday job anyway). Also, The Verve split up after they released ‘A Northern Soul’ so it didn’t seem worth investing any time in them.

But then they reformed and released ‘Urban Hymns’. And it was one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums in British music history.

The success wouldn’t last especially long, the band were a pretty self-destructive entity and rather that reap the rewards of becoming the band of the moment, arguably the only band that could stop the direction of British guitar-based music becoming dominated by Coldplay and their ilk, the Verve split up. Again.

Richard Ashcroft went on to enjoy some success as a solo artist and they did reform one more time and released a decent enough fourth album in the mid-noughties, but really their moment in the sun was ‘Urban Hymns’.

But what a moment it was.

It’s a brilliant album from start to finish, but a few tracks still stand out from the crowd.

‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ secured them their only UK number 1 in the singles chart, but the album and the band are probably most synonymous with the opening track, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’.

  17 comments for “James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 21: Urban Hymns

  1. Bryntin
    April 24, 2020 at 9:57 am

    This one was so nailed on that I couldn’t find a bookie to take the bet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 24, 2020 at 10:18 am

      Yeah it couldn’t have been anything else


  2. April 24, 2020 at 10:20 am

    We are definitely in five-star-gold-standard-classic-album territory with this one.
    I could never decide whether BITTERSWEET SYMPHONY or LUCKY MAN was my favorite track from this masterwork.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 24, 2020 at 11:59 am

      It was hard to pick so I went with the most iconic but Lucky Man was also superb.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April 24, 2020 at 11:17 am

    For a long time, I refused to listen to Bittersweet Symphony because, for the longest time, the Verve was at court with the Rolling Stones over the string sample. They almost got no royalties for that song, and everything went to the Rolling Stones. I didn’t want to feed that kind of greed. It’s not that long ago when the Stones relented and allowed to give the rights to the song back to the Verve. That said, the album itself is a masterpiece, indeed. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • April 24, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      I didn’t know that about the Rolling Stones. It rang a very distant bell when I read your comment but I am now more knowledgeable than I was five minutes ago 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • April 24, 2020 at 12:06 pm

        Music is my thing, what can I say? I have all this unnecessary information in my head. ☺

        Liked by 2 people

  4. April 24, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    I know them.
    Well, it was a good run while it lasted.

    Liked by 2 people

    • April 24, 2020 at 4:12 pm

      I’m so sorry

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 24, 2020 at 5:01 pm

        You did your best.
        I look forward to your next obscure British list of things Americans have never heard of.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. April 25, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Bought this around the same time as OK Computer (Radiohead) and (sorry everyone) very quickly fell out with it. It just grates on me for some reason. Haven’t played it for years now. This afternoon I guess…

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 25, 2020 at 10:14 am

      I mean if you’re going to compare it to OK Computer…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. April 25, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    I’ve heard this song endlessly because it’s on a mix I compiled for myself, but I’ve never seen the video. It’s so simple and yet weirdly stressful watching it, which I suppose is the point.

    Liked by 2 people

    • April 26, 2020 at 8:06 am

      It is definitely stressful to watch but pretty iconic. One of not many music videos that I can always remember.


  7. June 1, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    Another good album. I heard them live on the radio one night and one of the few bands who sound better live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 1, 2020 at 9:03 pm

      It’s a shame they kept splitting up really.


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