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Blur

 

There's a difference between "homage" and "ripping off". Blur do not understand this. Their whole career, more or less, has been patterned after other groups' musical styles (and in some cases, individual songs). The good thing, though, is that their melodicity is solid, so one can concentrate on the happy britpoppy melodies and ignore the fact that the Kinks etc. did all this stuff years ago.

lineup: Damon Albarn (vocals, keyboards); Graham Coxon (guitars); with a couple lads on bass & drums who nobody really cares about.

review index: Leisure / Parklife / The Great Escape / Blur

missing albums: Modern Life is Rubbish and 13

apex: The Great Escape
nadir: Blur
overlooked: Leisure


Leisure - 1991

Rating: ***
Best songs: There's No Other Way, She's So High, I Know
Worst songs: the cover art sucks

 

Okay, forget everything I just said. Now! This has nothing to do with Britpop, it's more like the Stone Roses -- guitarry pop songs underlined with skippy 90s dance beats. This album has also had a major influence on several noteworthy artists of today, such as Andrew W.K. and Disturbed.

Okay, forget everything I just said. No, wait, just forget the last part about influence. This album is indeed stuck squarely in Manchester in the early-90s. It would be a year or two before they figured out that this isn't where the $$$ is, it's in giving Ray Davies a colonoscopy and grabbing his magic bag of vocal melodies. As such, everyone derides this record as being a piece of carp. Well, sirs, I do not agree with this idea, and I will definitely not defend your right to say it to the death, because you're a bunch of friggin' morons.

If I may be allowed to continue, this album features several songs of note, particularly the opener "She's So High" and the second song "There's No Other Way". Electric guitars! Drums! It's as if they invented a new style of music that uses these instruments like never before!

Okay, forget what I just said. I won't lie to you: this isn't a fabulous album. Most of the choruses are just a titular phrase repeated over and over, and not all the songs are that great. Plus I could never love an album whose title could be a reference to the worst XTC song ever made (or at least the worst song on Engrish Settlement). But it's the same clean forget-it-after-you're-done fun as the last Cars album or whatnot.


Parklife - 1994

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Girls & Boys, To the End, End of a Century, Badhead
Worst songs: Parklife, Tracy Jacks, This Is a Low, Bank Holiday

 

Okay, hold on to your bobble hats, they're starting that britpop thing. Seriously! Though the big hit from this one was the catchy-as-a-satchel synth-disco number "Girs & Boys", you've got your inklings of Kinksery in the tale-of-the-common-man "Tracy Jacks", which features the really fucking annoying habit of repeating the same melody OVER AND OVER, and the title track which features the really fucking annoying habit of featuring some cockney guy blathering on about something or other. Fuck you, England!

Nah, just kidding. Actually, this is rather stylistically diverse, in that nearly every song on the first half of the album is some random departure into other territory: you've got the aforementioned funk-fest "Girls & Boys", lame punk ("Bank Holiday"), trippy psychedelia sung by the bass player ("Far Out"), and heck, even a trip to Oktoberfest ("The Debt Collector"). Oh hell, I just realized that most of these stylistic diversions kinda suck. Forget diversity, I want good songs! ("Badhead" and "End of a Century" qualify)

Thankfully, side two dispenses with all that and is solid as a solid thing. Starting with, oh, track 9: "To the End" is dreamy and gorgeous and features that chick from Stereolab (indie rock = good). "London Loves" is bip-boppy (Macca!) and I just love those tinny keyboards. "Trouble in the Message Centre" drives along pleasantly in a Trans Am (mullet not included). "Clover Over Dover" is HARPSICHORD-driven! I just cannot hate a song that features a harpsichord. Oh uh, "This Is a Low" sucks ballast with Damon caterwauling and whatever, and "Magic America" is just dumb, I say, dumb, I say, dumb, dumb dumb says I. How many say I? Not you, Eddie! There's probably some other songs on here, but if there are, I can't find them. Sorry, I need to straighten up around here. Still, nice disc. Later.


The Great Escape - 1995

Rating: ****1/2
Best songs: I CAN'T DECIDE!!!!!!!!!
Worst songs: Ernold Same, Mr. Robinson's Quango

 

And now, with your feature presentation, it's Blur in The Great Escape, a Stephen Street production. Briefly: this album kicks the living daylights out of something that lives in the daylight. The songs are almost entirely uniformly great and though "Mr. Robinson's Quango" and "Ernold Same" are two large sacks of potatoes just requesting that they be kicked in the prozac, the rest of the tunes rock out with aplomb. They're so uniformly bon, in fact, that I can't even pick any favorites. You've got your Ray Davies knockoff britpop ("Country House", "Charmless Man"), slow moody kinda weird britpop ("Best Days", "Yuko & Hiro", "Fade Away"), fast punky britpop ("Globe Alone"), and well, just a bunch of really good tunes played well and arranged interestingly. I would readily recommend this album to any prospective music listener, provided you don't mind that Damon Albarn's generic English guy accent. Or something like that. I hereby order you to buy this album if you don't already have it, and if you already have it, buy another copy and give it to someone who doesn't.


Blur - 1997

Rating: **
Best songs: Song 2
Worst songs: erh..

 

At this point I think it should be noted that I do not believe catchy, concise songwriting is the sole key to making good music. You can make things interesting without having to be a solid melodicist. However, some bands require the songwriting part to be strong, otherwise they're just incredibly boring. Such is the case with this album. Done with Britpop, the Damon Albarn Experience goes on to American indie-rock. Bad idea, because most indie-rock really sucks. (non-catchy = good, horribly unlistenable = wad-blowingly awesome in the mind if the indie kid) Seriously, I just can't remember any of this freakin' album, with the exception of the grunge parody "Song 2". The rest isn't horrible, I guess, but after about 20 minutes it starts to get boring. Blaaaaaaagrh!!!


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