Let us feel alive with the Verve and go back two years before the Bittersweet Symphony of Urban Hymns.
A Northern Soul was released moments before the bands first break up, but contains a hidden message of pain it seems. On a musical level, the album brings a new twist on what was a neo-pyscadelic A Storm In Heaven and finds a better suited home in with alternative rock, a theme which continued into later years. At the time of the writing of this album, close friend Noel Gallagher dedicated his song from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Cast No Shadow, to Ashcroft - who in return dedicated the song A Northern Soul to the Oasis frontman.
A Northern Soul reflects the psychedelic approach the band had almost moved away from, with a drugged lyrical influence, but brings back this image of pain and being “too busy staying alive, too busy living a lie, too busy living my life…”
However, what really brought the album to my attention again, was This Is Music. It’s a fast paced song with plenty of experimental elements pushed into it. It has a beautiful introduction of speed which then quickly transforms into a lively and exciting riff from where the Verve’s controversial lyrics spring into action. The use of distortion really brings out the anger in Ashcrofts voice on his controversial ideas throughout the song.
“I stand accused, just like you for being born without a silver spoon. Stood at the top of a hill over my town I was found. I’ve been on the shelf too long, sitting at home on my bed too long. Got my things and now I’m gone, how’s the world gonna take me?”
Ashcroft almost cries these lyrics, questioning inequality it seems to the upper powers of society.
“We’ve got a lot of living to do, there’s a door in my mind that’s open wide. Come inside come inside.”
“Jesus never saved me, he’ll never save you too, and you know!
I’ve got a little sticker on the back of my boot. This is music.”
Other songs on the album include On Your Own, a softer ballad that was the bands best performing song in the charts at that time reaching 28, before History was released, hitting 24 in the same chart. It was at this point that the band took their first break, something that Ashcroft had been wanting to do for a very long time.
As we all know, this split didn’t last very long as the iconic sounds of Urban Hymns followed only two years afterwards making the bands third album. For all of the political reasons, this album has to be one of my favourites and amongst the most iconic albums of British music history.
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