I have no idea if anybody reading this post now has been following this blog since the early, mostly forgettable days of 2007 (if you haven’t then you are better off for it, certainly). If you have, you might remember an old New Radicals review in which I referred to Gregg Alexander’s songs as “Big Important Anthems,” a descriptor that I thought was a real hum-dinger at the time. But in retrospect the term is much more appropriate in describing another hallmark of the ever-optimistic late 90s: The Verve’s Urban Hymns.
For god’s sake – Urban Hymns!! That is the actual name of the record. Richard Ashcroft is wearing a bucket hat on the cover. This might be the most intensely late-90s alt rock product ever conceived.
I have no idea why I am writing about this record. Besides nostalgia, of course. I bought Urban Hymns the weekend after my 18th birthday alongside Pinkerton. The latter hit me hard as a vulnerable teenager and has only built in reputation since, becoming my personal adolescent-idiot-bible every time I come back to it. Urban Hymns, on the other hand, has not aged quite as well and I kind of forgot about it for a few years after I graduated high school. But now I view it as kind of a strange predecessor to my eventual (and very brief) obsession with Britpop during my freshman year of college, even if it isn’t a particularly Britpoppy record.
Hey! Did you know that 1997 was apparently the Year Britpop Died according to most renowned music historians? Oasis put out that big fat cocainey mess Be Here Now and everybody simultaneously realized they were a bunch of cockmen. Radiohead did OK Computer and the Verve did Urban Hymns which precluded the mellower British sounds of Travis and Coldplay. Blur fell in love with Pavement alla the sudden and did “Song 2”. None of this is important.
What do you get with Urban Hymns. You get a bunch of heavily-produced 90s ballads about drugs probably, sharing album space with some vague psychedelia and some attempts at “rocking” that are not particularly thrilling. Not to mention way, wayy too long – “The Rolling People” and “Come On” are not nearly good enough to justify 7 and 15 minutes, respectively. Good lord!! Urban Hymns suffers from that unfortunate 90s tendency to fill up 80 minutes of CD space with a bunch of 3-minute tracks stretched out to 5 or 6 minutes each, making for a needlessly overlong behemoth (see also: Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, R.E.M.’s New Adventures In Hi-Fi).
But I would be a bona-fide lying man if I told you the ballads on here do not turn me into a blubbering fool every time I play them. The impact of the big hit “Bittersweet Symphony” has kind of dulled over time for me, but hey. “Space And Time”? “Lucky Man”? “The Drugs Don’t Work”? “One Day”? Hoo-jeez. You would be hard-pressed to find alt-rock ballads more expertly manipulative. Big Important Anthems that make you want to hug a man hard. If you don’t have a nostalgic connection to this kind of music like I do you might just think it’s a load of syrupy bullshit, and you would probably be right. End of review.
I have been living in Chicago for almost a year now. I just recently got a job, so. Now I’m stuck here. Don’t think that I’m bitter about this, because I am a happy happy man, having a job that involves me getting paid. This is nothing but good. But I hate listening to music like this because all I think about is home. Of course, there’s nothing left for me at home now besides my family – all my friends are off doing better things, and good for them. After I moved back home after college I had a boring job for a year and never left my house, and I was miserable. But fucking music like this, it makes me feel like there is something left back home, and I am abandoning it every second I am not there. It’s stupid, stupid. A total lie. Why would I put myself through this??
It’s trash. Manipulative garbage. You’re better off with Coldplay. Fuck you!!
i am never going to write a decent review ever again