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11 Best Songs by The Verve: An Ocean of Beautiful Noise

the verve band Songs by The Verve

The Verve are band both blessed and cursed. They will forever be associated with one song, “Bittersweet Symphony,” although they have many others. They will be known for their break-ups but, for a time, formed a great live unit.

And they’ll be viewed as the runt of the litter of great Britpop bands, although Richard Ashcroft and his bandmates were spectacular at their best.

I’ve enjoyed every one of The Verve’s albums tremendously. I like the immediacy of their singles and the trance-inducing powers of the band’s deep cuts.

Today, I am investigating the Top 10 songs by The Verve + “Bittersweet Symphony.” And, hopefully, I’ll help you see past the unfortunate reputation as one-hit wonders.

The Best Songs by The Verve

the verve band Songs by The Verve

11. “Sonnet” – from the album “Urban Hymns” (1997)

“Sonnet” is a song that perfectly reduces the majesty of The Verve’s sound to its bare essentials.

Like other hits from this album, it’s a slow, orchestral-backed love song. And just like the others, a tone of despair is captured here. It is one. of the most moving Richard Ashcroft songs.

However, it’s the undeniably pretty melodies and Ashcroft’s confident rock vocals that give the song its massive appeal.

10.”Blue” – from the album “A Storm in Heaven” (1993)

“Blue” is one of the standout tracks from The Verve’s debut album. It finds the band on edge, riding a tall wave of echo-powered guitars.

Make no mistake about it: The Verve was far from the only shoegaze/psychedelic band in the U.K. during the early 90s. Collectively, however, the group members had a radical attitude. They were The Sex Pistols of psych-rock.

“Blue” displays two of the band’s greatest assets. Nick McCabe produces an intimidating wall of guitar noise. Meanwhile, Richard Ashcroft is effortlessly charismatic. It’s one of The Verve’s top songs, without a shadow of a doubt.

9. “Lucky Man” – from the album “Urban Hymns” (1997)

Everyone deserves to get a break once in a while. To his credit, Richard Ashcroft could tell when his luck had changed.

“Lucky Man” was one of the most direct and satisfying tracks from “Urban Hymns.” The meaning of its success, from a band that had flirted with great heights and terrible lows, has not lost any longtime fans. Blur and Oasis may have fought the War of Britpop, but Verve’s unlikely rise seemed all the more satisfying.

However, many things needed to go right for this to happen. First of all, Ashscroft’s songwriting abilities had increased. Secondly, the band, Chris Potter and Youth’s production was pristine on this album. And lastly, Verve stayed together just enough to record this masterpiece.

The Verve’s love songs are not many, but they are usually terrific. Not many of the aforementioned ingredients would remain unspoiled. “Lucky Man” is a snapshot of everything going right for a rock band. It’s also one of The Verve’s greatest hits.

the verve band Songs by The Verve

8. “On Your Own” – from the album “A Northern Soul” (1995)

Few other 90s rock bands did slow songs quite like The Verve. Whereas you could suspect some of Ashcroft’s contemporaries for going through the motions, The Verve frontman sang his like a dying man gasping for air.

“On Your Own” is one of the first slow, epic numbers in the band’s catalogue. This would become one of the styles for which they’d become more famous. You can easily hear traces of “Sonnet” or “Lucky Man” here.

Like the rest of “A Northern Soul,” it sounds like the work of a band that’s fought to dangle from the edge and who is searching for a way back down.

7. “The Rolling People” – from the album “Urban Hymns” (1997)

“The Rolling People” sounds like a love letter sent by The Verve to their younger selves.

More than any other “Urban Hymns” track, it echoed their early albums’ dizzying, space-rock sounds. (Fans of their early sound should also check out “Weeping Willow” from the same record).

But they’d perfected this approach, too. “The Rolling People” is an intense, memorable experience for all of its 7-minute duration. The Verve’s Greatest Hits album bizarrely overlooks this, but make no mistake, this is one of the band’s most popular and greatest songs.

Just as strangely, it was also around this time that a band with a similar name but an altogether different identity would score a gigantic hit. In 1997, The Verve Pipe’s “The Freshman” was a colossal hit.

It was all such a shame that in less than two years, The Verve would break up again.

6. “This is Music” – from the album “A Northern Soul” (1995)

All great 90s rock groups needed an anthem. Oasis may have had “Rock N’ Roll Star,” but The Verve said just as much about them with “This is Music.”

“This is Music” is a perfect introduction for the band. The band flies it entirely on instinct, using the three-minute single to move in and out of trance-like states. Fans of this swagger rock ought to also check out “A New Decade” from the same album.

Ashcroft’s lyrics suggest that the singer isn’t merely looking for fans but saviours.

“This is Music” wasn’t as easily digestible as some of the other slices of anthemic Britpop. However, in terms of pure bravado, The Verve could rival anyone.

5. “Slide Away” – from the album “A Storm in Heaven” (1993)

Like The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Verve firmly believed in the life-changing power of rock music and drugs and “Slide Away” is a testament to that.

And while “Slide Away” feels like an edited version of jam, there’s nothing retro about The Verve. Their sound, particularly McCabe’s playing, sounds urgent and futuristic. What is The Verve’s genre? While that’s hard to pin down, terms like shoegaze, psychedelic-rock or Britpop often get brought up. And, “Slide Away” is one of the songs that does the best job of defining what this Richard Ashcroft band was usually about.

Furthermore, unlike other singers in shoegaze bands, Ashcroft is not content sitting in the background. He sings, yells and screams like a man that needs to deliver a message.

4. “The Drugs Don’t Work” – from the album “Urban Hymns” (1997)

The Verve’s global success came at the twilight of Britpop. But with songs as moving as “The Drugs Don’t Work“, it’s no wonder that 1997 belonged to them.

“The Drugs Don’t Work” is the culmination of the work that started on “A Northern Soul.” It’s a slow, acoustic-based The Verve song where orchestral arrangements boost Ashcroft’s emotional vocals.

“Urban Hymns” had no less than four charting singles. This also meant that, for once, The Verve produced genuine hits in and around Britain. The album was number one in countries like Ireland and Sweden. Furthermore, when having The Verve’s albums ranked, “Urban Hymns” usually is heralded as their best.

The dramatic, mournful tone of the lyrics arrives as a response to all the drama surrounding the band across their short, initial spell.

“The Drugs Don’t Work” is one of the best songs of the 1990s and, perhaps, The Verve’s best work. It’s a format that Ashcroft would use often, but this would always remain the high point.

3. “History” – from the album “A Northern Soul” (1995)

The Verve’s musicians were always a complicated bunch. By the time of their second album, songs like “History” had already painted them as rock n’ roll survivors.

The truth was that the chaos Ashcroft chased off-stage also resided within the band. They’d already split up once, had had massive drug issues and inspired devotion in a dedicated few.

“A Northern Soul” came accompanied by a do-or-die attitude. Slower songs like “History” could be accommodated as long as they were great and matched the intensity of the group itself.

“History” sounds like a power ballad going off the rails. The string arrangement hints at the majesty of “Urban Hymns,” sure. However, here, Ashcroft uses his stabs his words like a jilted lover writing a farewell letter.

the verve band Songs by The Verve

2. “Love is Noise” – from the album “Forth” (2008)

“Love is Noise” was the best song that The Verve produced during their short 2000s reunion and a brief reminder of the band’s brilliance.

Not many bands have produced songs like “This is Music” or “The Drugs Don’t Work,” let alone “Bittersweet Symphony.” You could have forgiven The Verve for being unable to climb as high more than a decade later.

For a moment, however, they do reach the summit. While the rest of “Forth” struggles to retain the casual listener’s attention, “Love is Noise” is dramatic and catchy. It deserves to be mentioned on a list that has songs by The Verve ranked.

It was an unlikely return. Ashcroft had famously proclaimed that The Beatles had a bigger chance of getting together than The Verve. But, of course, the reunion wouldn’t last for long.

It sees McCabe marrying his distinctive guitar tone to loops once again. All the while, the rhythm section comprising Simon Jones and Peter Salisbury offers the booming backing that the song needs.

It’s unlikely we’ll hear The Verve reunite for a fourth time. If the story needs an ending, soundtrack it with “Love is Noise.” It’s a worthy sendoff.

1. “Bittersweet Symphony” – from the album “Urban Hymns” (1997)

Whether you’re a fan of the Verve or not, “Bittersweet Symphony” is a song you would’ve heard many times. Thankfully, it’s a tune that endures even after repeated listens.

The Verve had, once again, broken up before making 1997’s “Urban Hymns.” Ashcroft reunited the group on two conditions: Simon Tong would have to join on guitar, and the band would need to make an ambitious, genre-defying album.

“Bitter Sweet Symphony” is the band’s first attempt at marrying their powerful space rock to samples and loops. It’s a rock song made with the tactics favoured by hip-hop. It was pretty revolutionary for its time.

Famously, Richard Ashcroft would lose the royalties to this because of an orchestral sample from a Mick Jagger/Keith Richard composition before winning those back in 2019.

What matters is the power of “Bittersweet Symphony.” It made a video featuring a swaggering Ashcroft into one of the pop culture reference points of the 90s. Coldplay’s Chris Martin or Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst covered it. Sports teams walk onto the field to this tune. It’s The Verve’s football song, something that these shoegaze greats didn’t seem destined for. And even though you and I have heard it a million times, it still sounds rad.

The Verve and Ashcroft have many great songs. Almost none of them are similar to “Bittersweet Symphony.”

They’ve never really repeated its success. But, to their credit, they’ve never really tried to copy the exact formula.

Why don’t you do yourself a favour and judge firsthand if what I wrote is correct? Here’s Alt77’s The Verve songs playlist.

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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