The Verve Mix it Up on Hymns

The Verve - Urban Hymns
(Virgin Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

After an 18 month hiatus, British pop-rockers The Verve are back together for their third album, Urban Hymns, and while this album doesn't break any major ground, it shows that there's still a place for cleverly penned pop melodies with swelling arrangements on the music charts today.
Cast from a similar mold as Oasis, singer / songwriter Richard Ashcroft sings songs of the human experience - pain, sex, loss, elation - and amplifies them to a grand cinematic level. Where Oasis dead-ends in a pretentious, one-dimensional sound, The Verve manage to mix it up on Urban Hymns with a melting pot of songs that range from melancholy ballads ("The Drugs Don't Work" and "Weeping Willow") to psychedelic rockers ("The Rolling People" and "Catching The Butterfly") as well as numbers with unforgettable melodies ("Lucky Man" and the sweeping "Bitter Sweet Symphony", written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and complemented by the enveloping strings of the Andrew Oldham Orchestra).
Heroes in their homeland, The Verve have yet to really breakthrough here in the States. Cutting their teeth on American audiences on the 1994 Lollapalooza festival, as well as playing smaller club dates throughout the country over the last few years, the band has managed to garner a small amount of international fame, even if it's not what Ashcroft is setting his sights for.
"I don't think we're ever going to achieve what we want to achieve," Ashcroft admitted in an earlier press release. "It would be impossible, but that's the point, to aim further."
While Ashcroft's prediction is probably correct, if The Verve manage to produce albums with the catchiness of Urban Hymns along with a bit more flair for experimentation in the future, then at least they're heading in the right direction.

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