Excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol coupled with a scorching
summer's day at a 1994 Lollapalooza gig nearly led to the end of one of
England's most promising singers (and bands) of the early '90s. It
would take many doctors and a few saline drips to hydrate the Verve's
frontman, Richard Ashcroft, saving his life and the band. The incident
was the first of many episodes where the Verve was worming its way out
of rock 'n' roll, and it would take two more albums and two break-ups
before the band quit for good in 1999. Which brings us to This Is Music: The Singles '92-'98,
a final farewell (five years later) and probably the first of more
posthumous releases from a group that enjoyed many wild highs and a few
This Is Music: The Singles '92-'98 includes the Wigan band's twelve singles, culled from the wispy, neo-psychedelic, shoe-gazing 1993 debut, A Storm In Heaven; 1995's expansive, Owen Morris-produced Zeppelin monster, A Northern Soul; and 1997's majestic swan song, Urban Hymns.
The collection, which includes the band's twelve singles, unfolds like
a Rob Gordon mixtape: The older and more atmospheric/explosive songs
like "Slide Away" and "Gravity Grave" are sandwiched between calculated
ballads like "Lucky Man" and "On Your Own." Sure, someone could easily
assemble the same set-up on their iPod, but that there's even a new
release from the Verve nearly five years after the band's demise is
better than nothing at all. And a few Urban Hymns outtakes are
included for good measure. "This Could Be My Moment" and "Monte Carlo"
show where Ashcroft's solo career was heading post-Verve (a.k.a.
listless crap). But for a reminder, the big stadium epic "Bittersweet
Symphony" and the quintessential country-blues lament "The Drugs Don't
Work" are included as evidence of just how massive this band really
The Verve's shelf-life these days seems to amount to a few years and
only a handful of albums. Most U.K. acts aren't even given the chance
after a sophomore release, so it's amazing that a band like the Verve
had the strength to continue as a group, especially when the airwaves
(at the time of their arrival) consisted of Sub Pop grunge acts and a
fueling Brit-pop scene, which Ashcroft and his band didn't subscribe
to. The band eclipsed each of their albums with such fervor that they
hit the self-destruct button at almost every turn -- and at a time when
North America was just catching on to their anthemic sound.
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