Urban Hymns

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Urban Hymns
The Verve, Urban Hymns.png
Studio album by
Released29 September 1997 (1997-09-29)
RecordedOctober 1996 – May 1997
StudioOlympic, London
The Verve chronology
Five by Five
Urban Hymns
This Is Music: The Singles 92–98
Singles from Urban Hymns
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony"
    Released: 16 June 1997 (1997-06-16)
  2. "The Drugs Don't Work"
    Released: 1 September 1997 (1997-09-01)
  3. "Lucky Man"
    Released: 24 November 1997 (1997-11-24)
  4. "Sonnet"
    Released: 2 March 1998 (1998-03-02)

Urban Hymns is the third studio album by English alternative rock band the Verve, released on 29 September 1997 on Hut Records. It earned nearly unanimous critical praise upon its release, and went on to become the band's best-selling release and one of the biggest selling albums of the year. As of 2019, Urban Hymns is ranked the 18th best-selling album in UK chart history[2] and has sold over ten million copies worldwide.[3] This is the only Verve album to feature guitarist and keyboardist Simon Tong, who initially joined the band to replace their original guitarist Nick McCabe. McCabe rejoined the band soon after, however, and Tong was considered the fifth member of the band; this makes the album the only one that the band recorded as a five-piece.

The album features the hit singles "Bitter Sweet Symphony", "Lucky Man" and UK number one "The Drugs Don't Work". The critical and commercial success of the album saw the band win two Brit Awards in 1998, including Best British Group, and appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in April 1998.[4][5] "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.[6] It was also among ten albums nominated for the best British album of the previous 30 years by the Brit Awards in 2010, ultimately losing to (What's the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis.[7]. In 2013, NME ranked it at number 128 in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[8]


The Verve had previously released two albums, A Storm in Heaven in 1993 and A Northern Soul in 1995. The band had only achieved moderate commercial success up to that point, and the band split shortly after their second album due to internal conflicts. Vocalist Richard Ashcroft quickly reformed the group, with Simon Tong, an old friend of the band on guitar, however Ashcroft realised Nick McCabe's unique guitar style was required to complete the true Verve unit and later asked him to return. Tong also remained adding more guitar and keyboard/organ textures, making them a five-piece band and expanding their sound.[9]

The four-piece had already recorded several tracks for the album with Youth as producer, but once McCabe returned they re-recorded several tracks and changed producers to Chris Potter. McCabe said that in the next seven months of work, "... the key tracks were recorded from scratch, but some of them were already there."[10]

The cover photo was taken in Richmond Park, London by photographer Brian Cannon, who was also responsible for the artwork of the band's previous two albums. Cannon said that the simplicity of the image was because Ashcroft simply wanted fans to "listen to the fucking record".[11]


The Verve were known for their music's complex, immersive sonic textures. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and remains the band's most well-known song. "The Drugs Don't Work", the band's only number one single in the UK, became a concert staple for jam bands and other groups.[citation needed]

The rest of the album alternated between wistful ballads like "Sonnet" and "Space and Time" (written by Richard Ashcroft), spacey grooves like "Catching the Butterfly" and "The Rolling People", all-out rockers like the pounding "Come On" (which existed in demo from the "Northern Soul" era) and psychedelic driven songs like "Neon Wilderness". The hidden track "Deep Freeze" features distorted guitars and a baby's cry sound. It has strong ambient influences that set it apart from the rest of the tracks in terms of composition and overall mood.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[12]
Chicago Tribune2.5/4 stars[13]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[14]
The Guardian5/5 stars[15]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[16]
Q5/5 stars[19]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[20]

Urban Hymns received widespread critical praise upon its release.[22] Melody Maker hailed it as "an album of unparalleled beauty so intent on grabbing at the strands of music's multi-hued history".[23] Ted Kessler of NME praised Urban Hymns as the band's best album to date, adding that its first five songs alone "pound all other guitar albums this year – bar Radiohead's OK Computer – into the ground with their emotional ferocity and deftness of melodic touch."[17] Similarly, Rolling Stone critic David Fricke deemed it "a defiantly psychedelic record — soaked in slipstream guitars and breezy strings, cruising at narcotic-shuffle velocity — about coping and crashing".[20] The Los Angeles Times' Sara Scribner noted its "lush, intricate, ethereal sound" and felt that The Verve had "delivered an achingly beautiful record that's just desperate enough to never get boring."[16]

In a more mixed assessment, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune felt that Urban Hymns was lacking in enough songs as memorable as "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "The Drugs Don't Work" to justify the album's long length.[13] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice cited the latter track as a "choice cut",[24] indicating a good song on "an album that isn't worth your time or money."[25]

Urban Hymns spent 12 weeks at the top of the UK Albums Chart, with a total of 124 weeks on the chart.[26] It also became The Verve's first charting album in the United States, where it debuted at number 63 on the Billboard 200,[27] giving the band their first commercial success in the country.[28] Urban Hymns ultimately peaked at number 23 on the chart and was certified Platinum by the RIAA on 4 April 1998;[29] it remains the group's best-selling album in the United States to date, with over 1.3 million copies sold as of 2009.[30]


Melody Maker named Urban Hymns as the number one album of 1997 in its year-end list,[31] and the album ranked at number three on NME's year-end critics' poll.[32] Q also included it in their own list of the best albums of 1997,[33] and it ranked at number 18 on The Village Voice's year-end Pazz & Jop critics' poll.[34] At the 1998 Brit Awards, Urban Hymns won the award for Best British Album and The Verve themselves were awarded Best British Group.[22] The same year, Richard Aschroft won an Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter of the Year.[22] The album was also shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, which was ultimately awarded to Gomez' Bring It On.[35] By April 1999, however, renewed tensions within the band, particularly between Ashcroft and McCabe, would lead The Verve to split up for a second time, at the height of their critical and commercial success.[22]

In the years following its release, Urban Hymns has received much acclaim. In 2000 it was voted number 213 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[36] Q included it in their 1999 list of the 90 best albums of the 1990s,[37] while the magazine's readers voted it the eighteenth best album of all-time in 1998,[38] later moved up to sixteenth place in a similar list compiled in 2006.[39] The Verve were awarded with the first ever Q Classic Album award for Urban Hymns at the 2007 Q Awards,[40] and the following year, Urban Hymns was ranked as the tenth best British album of all time in a poll jointly conducted by Q and HMV.[41] It was also nominated for Best British Album of the Last 30 Years at the 2010 Brit Awards, but lost to Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory?[42]. In 2013, NME ranked it at number 128 in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[43]

In a retrospective review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic called Urban Hymns "a rich album that revitalizes rock traditions without ever seeming less than contemporary", further crediting it as the album that The Verve had "been striving to make since their formation."[12] BBC Music critic Wendy Roby wrote in 2010 that Urban Hymns "still sounds thrilling" and "soars with autumnal melancholy", crediting the album's mix of "massive, sweeping" arrangements and Ashcroft's "heartbreaking" lyrics as its key characteristics.[44] Uncut wrote that "the most striking qualities of Urban Hymns now are its musical coherence and the powerfully sustained mood of melancholic stoicism."[45] On the other hand, Emily Tartanella of Magnet felt that Urban Hymns was undeserving of its accolades, calling it "one of the most bloated, boring and overpraised albums of the '90s."[46]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Richard Ashcroft, except where noted.

International version
1."Bitter Sweet Symphony" 
  • The Verve
  • Youth
3."The Rolling People"The Verve
4."The Drugs Don't Work" 
  • The Verve
  • Youth
5."Catching the Butterfly"The Verve
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter
6."Neon Wilderness"
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter
7."Space and Time" 
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter
8."Weeping Willow" 
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter
9."Lucky Man" 
  • The Verve
  • Youth
10."One Day" 
  • The Verve
  • Youth
11."This Time" 
  • The Verve
  • Youth
12."Velvet Morning" 
  • The Verve
  • Youth
13."Come On" (includes hidden song "Deep Freeze")The Verve
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter
Total length:1:15:57

Note: The original album's digital version and Japanese version has "Deep Freeze" as a separate track following "Come On", without the silence in between (on Japanese version due to limited duration of CD).[49] In the 2017 digital and physical remastered versions, both tracks are joined with the silence.

Japanese version
13."Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" 
  • The Verve
  • Youth
14."Come On"The Verve
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter
15."Deep Freeze"The Verve
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter
Total length:1:14:26


A total of 10 other songs were released as B-sides for the album's singles, in various configurations.

Bitter Sweet Symphony
1."Lord I Guess I'll Never Know"Ashcroft
  • The Verve
  • Youth
2."Country Song"The Verve
The Drugs Don't Work
1."Never Wanna See You Cry"Ashcroft
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter [51]
2."MSG"The Verve
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter[51]
3."The Longest Day"The Verve
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter[51]
Lucky Man
1."Three Steps"The Verve
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter[52]
2."The Crab"Ashcroft
3."Stamped"The Verve
  • The Verve
  • Chris Potter[52]
1."So Sister"Ashcroft
2."Echo Bass"The Verve


The Verve[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]



Chart (1997) Peak
UK Albums Chart 1
Chart (1998) Peak
US Billboard 200 23
Argentine CAPIF 20
Top Canadian Albums 18
Media Control Charts (Germany) 11
Lista Top-40 (Finland) 4

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1997) Position
German Albums Chart[55] 97
Chart (1998) Position
German Albums Chart[56] 51


Single Chart (1997–1998) Peak
"Bitter Sweet Symphony" UK Singles Chart 2
Top 40 Adult Recurrents 9
Adult Top 40 8
Modern Rock Tracks 4
Mainstream Rock Tracks 22
Top 40 Mainstream 23
The Billboard Hot 100 12
New Zealand Singles Chart 15
Lista Top-20 (Finland) 6
"The Drugs Don't Work" UK Singles Chart 1
Lista Top-20 (Finland) 9
New Zealand Singles Chart 10
"Lucky Man" UK Singles Chart 7
Modern Rock Tracks 16
Lista Top-20 (Finland) 16
New Zealand Singles Chart 38
"Sonnet" UK Singles Chart 74
New Zealand Singles Chart 43

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[57] Gold 30,000^
Australia (ARIA)[58] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Belgium (BEA)[59] Platinum 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[60] 2× Platinum 200,000^
France (SNEP)[61] Platinum 300,000*
Germany (BVMI)[62] Platinum 500,000^
sales 1997-1998
Italy (FIMI)[64]
sales since 2009
Gold 50,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[65] Gold 100,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[66] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[67] Platinum 15,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[68] Platinum 100,000^
Sweden (GLF)[69] Platinum 80,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[70] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[72] 11× Platinum 3,315,950[71]
United States (RIAA)[74] Platinum 1,358,000[73]
Europe (IFPI)[75] 4× Platinum 4,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laws, Mike (11 December 2014). "The 10 Best Britpop Albums of All Time (or At Least Since 1993 or So)". The Village Voice. Suzan Gursoy. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  2. ^ "The best-selling albums of all time on the Official UK Chart". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Top 40 Best Selling Albums: 28 July 1956 – 14 June 2009" (PDF). Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  4. ^ The Brit Awards: The Verve Archived 2 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine Brits.co.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2012
  5. ^ 1998 Rolling Stone Covers Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 February 2012
  6. ^ 41st Grammy Awards – 1999 Rock on the Net. Retrieved 12 February 2012
  7. ^ Wilkinson, Matt (16 February 2010). "Liam Gallagher snubs Noel as Oasis win Brit Album Of 30 Years award". NME. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  8. ^ Rocklist.net NME: The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time : October 2013
  9. ^ Follow the Yellow Brick Road
  10. ^ "Nick McCabe Interview". Excellent Online. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Things You May Not Know About The Verve's Urban Hymns..." Radio X. 17 December 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  12. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Urban Hymns – The Verve". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  13. ^ a b Kot, Greg (26 December 1997). "The Verve: Urban Hymns". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  14. ^ Lanham, Tom (10 October 1997). "Urban Hymns". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  15. ^ Sullivan, Caroline (26 September 1997). "Grave new world". The Guardian.
  16. ^ a b Scribner, Sara (12 October 1997). "The Verve 'Urban Hymns' Virgin". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  17. ^ a b Kessler, Ted (27 September 1997). "The Verve – Urban Hymns". NME. Archived from the original on 17 August 2000. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  18. ^ Berman, Stuart (2 September 2017). "The Verve: Urban Hymns". Pitchfork. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  19. ^ Harris, John (October 2017). "Songs of Praise". Q (377): 112.
  20. ^ a b Fricke, David (25 December 1998 – 8 January 1998). "The Verve: Urban Hymns / Built to Spill: Perfect from Now On". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 December 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  21. ^ Aston, Martin; Harris, John; Perry, Andy (March 1998). "The Shining Path". Select (93): 76–77.
  22. ^ a b c d Woodward, Will (29 April 1999). "Bittersweet success as the Verve split". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  23. ^ James, Martin (4 October 1997). "The Verve: Urban Hymns, Hut Records". Melody Maker: 51.
  24. ^ Christgau, Robert. "The Verve: Urban Hymns". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  25. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG 90s: Key to Icons". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
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  27. ^ Author unknown. "Bridge to the Past". Rolling Stone. 8 October 1997.
  28. ^ Devenish, Colin (20 April 1998). "The Verve Take Massive Attack To American Shores". MTV. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
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  30. ^ Trust, Gary. "Ask Billboard: "English Beat". Billboard. 23 January 2009.
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  32. ^ "1997 Critics' Poll". NME: 78–79. 20–27 December 1997.
  33. ^ "50 Best Albums of 1997". Q (136): 115. January 1998.
  34. ^ "The 1997 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. 24 February 1998. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
  35. ^ "Mercury winners: where are they now?". Channel 4. 18 July 2007. Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
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  37. ^ "90 Best Albums of the 1990s". Q (159): 92. December 1999.
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  42. ^ BRIT Awards 2010 Homepage Archived 18 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ Rocklist.net NME: The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time : October 2013
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  45. ^ "The Verve: Urban Hymns". Uncut. p. 108. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  46. ^ Tartanella, Emily (18 August 2009). "The Over/Under: Britpop". Magnet. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
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  48. ^ "Verve Discography".
  49. ^ "Urban Hymns". 29 September 1997.
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  51. ^ a b c "The Verve – The Drugs Don't Work HUT CD88". Discogs. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  52. ^ a b c "The Verve – Lucky Man HUTT 92". Discogs. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  53. ^ a b "The Verve - Sonnet HUTCD100". Discogs. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  54. ^ Potter receives credit in the liner notes for "additional production and mixing" on the songs that the band recorded with Youth. "The Verve – Urban Hymns HUTLP 45". Discogs. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  55. ^ "Top 100 Album-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
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  64. ^ "Italian album certifications – The Verve – Urban Hymns" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 8 October 2018. Select "2018" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Urban Hymns" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Album e Compilation" under "Sezione".
  65. ^ "Japanese album certifications – The Verve – Urban Hymns" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Select 1999年1月 on the drop-down menu
  66. ^ "Dutch album certifications – The Verve – Urban Hymns" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Enter Urban Hymns in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  67. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – The Verve – Urban Hymns". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  68. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. p. 948. ISBN 8480486392.
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  70. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (The Verve; 'Urban Hymns')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien.
  71. ^ Jones, Alan (8 September 2017). "Official Charts Analysis: The Script debut at No.1 on albums chart". Music Week. Intent Media. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  72. ^ "British album certifications – Verve, The – Urban Hymns". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Urban Hymns in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  73. ^ Trust, Gary (23 January 2009). "Ask Billboard: Mariah Carey, Abba, Oasis, The Verve". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  74. ^ "American album certifications – Verve, The – Urban Hymns". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  75. ^ "IFPI Platinum Europe Awards – 1998". International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

External links[edit]