As a British-American, Blur has meant a lot to me. Hidden in the songs is the same tension for identity I’ve always had whether to call myself British or American. Needless to say, I am excited for the new album coming out tomorrow. For a band that has been around for more than twenty years, few can say they have adjusted their sound so many times without losing face. Here is my list of Blur’s worst to best albums.
This first LP by the band has some straight off catchy singles like “She’s So High” and “There’s No Other Way”, but in terms of production it is a shadow of what was to come. “There’s No Other Way” was perhaps the only song on here with a glint of the character Damon’s lyrics could possess. Yet these were more seen in the music video than the song itself, with the happy family living in an American home with everything they possibly need and Damon sitting at the kitchen table with almost an insane asylum face on, pushing the envelope that perfection in American society could drive someone mad. It had the vision of the attack on modern society he would one day become so famous for. The guitar work itself rings of the style often heard across the next albums: the slightly dirty and tinny distortion reminiscent of the sound a guitar makes when it is being chucked around hitting the strings in a discordant manner. What sticks out on this album the most is Damon’s lyrics possessing a lot more personal touch. He sings more about usual subjects like love and loss rather than society at large or some metaphor for his love life through non-related images or another character. It almost seems like another person singing and strange to see a Damon so heartfelt and distressed.
6. Think Tank
Like Leisure, this album is far from being bad. it just lacks that Blur quality all of the other albums possess. There is less social commentary and it seemed more Damon driven than everything else. Perhaps this was because the days of Gorillaz and Damon’s other works were looming. It also lacks consistency compared to previous albums in terms of the concept that goes across all songs.
5. Modern Life Is Rubbish
In terms of titles, this album is the greatest. It was when Blur found themselves and it’s really underrated. Besides the extremely catchy “For Tomorrow” and “Sunday, Sunday”, these songs are in many ways the most English tunes ever produced. They were made with the intention of turning a back on the United States that hadn’t allowed the band to become famous. For that, this album is brilliant. Often bands have tried to follow in the footsteps but simply come off corny. We have Damon beginning to use his theatric weirdness to demonstrate the absurdities of modern life. For those born after the 90s or too young to remember it, the sound coming from this album captures it perfectly. The attack on commercializing everything drips not only from the lyrics, but the very dirtiness of the guitar. It’s the way Damon takes typical pop las and oohs that demonstrates this the best, they are catchy but at the same time linger with a sarcastic snicker of the insanity of brainwashed civilians.
This album was the last LP I found myself listening to and after many years of being a Blur fan. Its significance is that it stands much like a person born in one country, but raised in another. After years of having led Brit-Pop, this was Blur’s take on lo-fi music that had taken off in the United States. It’s a European after years of instinctively jumping to negative comments about the land across the ocean coming to terms that America has done significant things for the world and in fact influenced the very blood running through their veins. The first three/fourths of this album are all instant hits, but the last few songs seem too experimental to stand by themselves and may have been better placed individually throughout the album. It has the band’s sole acoustic song and the all too famous “Song 2”.
Musically, this album is perhaps Blur’s best. It certainly has the two best songs, “Coffee & TV” and “Tender”. However, the guitar is used across this album in a way that makes it a necessity for the listener to take the album from beginning to end. It’s ambient, but desolate and haunting. Although previous albums had lyrics that within pop songs had noted the hilarious pointlessness of a new century, this album captured it without needing to be direct. Chords go on forever, often seeming half caring with vocals lost in the background as if mimicking mankind’s place in outer space. Are we truly important or simple a chain store?
Here stands the album so influential that legions of bands have tried to follow suit since. It’s a collection of top notch Brit Pop social observations that could be ripped from the present just as they came about twenty years ago. It’s an album to make anyone proud to be English, especially with the horns coming in so elegantly and at times in the same tone as a posh Englishman’s “Oh really”. Even the choice of Tracy Jacks as a song name is brilliant for setting the English vibe. The opener “Girls & Boys” sets the scene in a brash and intrusive manner with a chorus so quick and hard to follow. Utterly genius in how it slips a subject manner over the heads of its listeners in a decade where society a decade away from the gay rights movement. “Parklife” among them is the epitome of Damon’s intelligent, yet funny lyrics that can be remembered in the most normal settings. His ability to take daily things and apply storyline is an ability that is very hard to do without running the risk of being boring or unrelatable. Often times the pop songs on here are too poppy, they let the lyrics do the work more than the music. This can make the album collapse without having a consistency. It sometimes becomes simply a collection of pop songs rather than an album. Still, individually, these songs are impeccable in relating to normal occurrences one may encounter while in London. In this way, there are few albums that capture the feel of London with all its quirky Englishness wrapped around fine etiquette, awkward social distances between individuals, and anti-establishment wit. “Magic America” with its sly denial of the USA’s apparent perfection is the culmination of all this. It screams for England to not give into the dominating world power and to retain its history.
1. The Great Escape
It’s a really tough one whether this album is better or the same as Parklife. This album was the poppiest of everything, but it knew how to use pop to be intelligent. Whereas Parklife and Modern Life were attacks on the English Way, this was in many respects an attack on modern life globally. There’s the growth of stereotypes whether it be emo, punk, or skater. The rich who have worked to remain so or get there who have first world crises of realising there isn’t much left to live for. The couples who live boring lives where there only concerns revolve around the size of their behind. The teenagers who claim their time is better than their parents without delving into the culture of that time or the other way around. The lack of character businessman who sucks up to the elites. The people who only live to get drunk.The boring chap who lives the same thing every day of the week. “Fade Away” is perhaps the best rendition of the existential crisis all over this album. To some it may be too poppy or in fact annoying, but a closer listen to the keyboards and the brass reek of Damon’s character 100%. Everything in it is sarcastic and obnoxious. It rings with the band grabbing society by the shoulders in an attempt to wake them up, to do more than simply go to work and come home to watch the tv.