This is Music: The Singles 92-98

Dec 1, 2004 at 12:00 am

As much as the keening strings of “Bittersweet Symphony” have become staple musical cues for your typical heart-tugging sweeps-week piece, and “Lucky Man” is the inevitable sound track for every slow-motion dissolve on the eyes of a no-hitting pitcher or hard-luck veteran quarterback, it’s probably time to remind and/or educate the casual Verve supporter of the band’s true breadth and ultimate legacy as the frustrated, psychedelic messiahs of ’90s English pop. After all, 1997’s Urban Hymns, despite its breakthrough status domestically, was only the realization of the Verve’s trad-rock trajectory. It arrived after they’d tripped through the wires of personnel discontent and personal self-destruction, after A Storm in Heaven and Northern Soul had established not only their music’s shambling genius, but the barefoot magnetism of vocalist Richard Ashcroft. This is Music: The Singles 92-98 is exactly that, a collection that spotlights the guiding stars in the Verve’s twinkling and hazy universe. In the epics (“Slide Away”, “History”), the hallucinations (“Gravity Grave”) and the dusty, resigned rock of their final hour (“Sonnet,” the aching “Drugs Don’t Work” and — yes — “Bittersweet” and “Lucky Man”), we have a road map to a band that chose restlessness over finding its own way home.

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].