Urban Hymns - for me the greatest record of all time. If I can somehow convey at least a part of the reason why I believe this to be true, I'll have done well. Because it's hard to put into words how good this album really is. Both musically and lyrically, it is as close to perfection as I think any record will ever get.
There are four very famous songs on here, but they are just one dimension to Urban Hymns, there is so much more to this record than the first four singles. Even so, each is outstanding. Bitter Sweet Symphony is emphatic, euphoric and exhilarating. The strings begin, but once the beat kicks in it sends a chill down my spine. Sonnet is sweet, a beautiful acoustic song. The Drugs Don't Work was number one on the day of Princess Diana's death. It has another beautiful acoustic melody, but The Verve are so good at adding depth to their songs, this is them at their best. And Lucky Man, if I had to choose, this is my favourite song on the album. It has been such an inspiration to me at difficult times of my life, whenever I feel low I can play it and it reminds me of who I am.
Then there are the nine other songs here which really make the album into what it is - a masterpiece. That word is overused a lot in music but here it truly does apply. There are three songs I'd like to point out here, which show that The Verve are more than just a one man show, and that they know how to rock out as well. The Rolling People is a huge song, full of spark and craft, "here we are the Rolling People, can't stay for long, we gotta go." Weeping Willow is the hidden gem on this record, if you aren't paying attention it can pass you by, but stop and pause to listen to this because I assure you it will grab you and suck you in. This is one of the most intense songs I've ever heard. I'd been playing this album for seven years before I discovered how great Weeping Willow "the pills under my pillow" really was. Then there is the raging climax - Come On. It is completely different to all that went before because rather than encouraging you to reflect, it encourages you to stand up and shout, with a fist in the air, "**** you - Come On!" I cannot think of a better way to end an album like this, one that takes you on such a life affirming journey, than to finish with such a jubilant celebration.
And still, there so many more great songs on Urban Hymns... "I'm gonna keep Catching That Butterfly in that dream of mine... in a Neon Wilderness, he was restless... there ain't no Space And Time to keep our love alive... maybe One Day we will dance again... good times are hard to hold, This Time I'm gonna find... into the half light, another Velvet Morning".
Altogether, these thirteen songs make up seventy-six minutes of pure genius from start to finish. It represents a great year in modern history, 1997, a year of hope; expectation, celebration and tragedy; but in the end, this album is completely timeless. I love it.