Tricky Dicky is back. The Croft of Ash has returned. The Wigan troubadour has put pen to paper again. Singer with The Verve and now on his fourth studio album with ‘These People’, Richard Ashcroft’s voice is still unmistakeable. We welcome him back into the fray looking a little older, maybe wiser; shorn of hair, but not of ideas.
Seeing as its Throwback Thursday though, the dilemma is Urban Hymns, or Alone with Everybody? A Northern Soul is a quiet classic, but Urban Hymns has it all: a grab bag of classic singles, a lawsuit, and a video (Bitter Sweet Symphony) which was recently ‘homaged’ to woeful effect by Chris Moyles for some non-descript radio station. Alone with Everybody didn’t stray too far from the Verve’s past and firmly stands up on its own. Urban Hymns it is though.
1997, Kangol and Clarks Wallabies on the cover. Feather cuts on the band’s barnets. Urban Hymns smashes it on both sides of the Atlantic, selling millions of copies. Yes, copies, not files. Bitter Sweet Symphony is still a rousing anthem. We defy you not so sing-along. Slowly building from that pocket emptying Stones sample to an overdubbed Ashcroft woozily intoning ‘have you ever been down’ over and over in a psychedelic haze. A red box of memory. Don’t sound like a sonnet. Simple, beautiful lyrics that are part of a masterfully told narrative. As with most of the album, it starts off innocuously and builds to a soaring climax.
The Drugs Don’t Work is simply a majestically emotional tune that gently plucks at your heartstrings until you realise that you’re ‘having a moment’. The whole album follows a distinct, yet deliciously hazy path. Songs of love lost, addictions of the mind and soul are all wrapped up in overdubbed vocals, a phalanx of effects and shamanic intonations. Style wise, it staggers between country-ish moments like Drugs Don’t Work and Hendrix progressive, psychedelic rock such as Butterfly.
The band were tight and delivered a masterpiece that had shades of George Martin’s orchestral production. Even if Ashcroft veered (and sneered) a little too close to Liam Gallagher at times, we all know who has more creative bones in their body. Listen to the album as a whole, and you’ll realise how cohesive it is. Some tracks may sound similar to others, but upon closer inspection, you’ll realise there’s so much going on, it needs to be picked apart.
Tune in, turn on and inject some joie de Verve this Throwback Thursday. Follow us on Spotify for great music and playlists.