Blur – The alternative take

What do you need to know about them?

Blur are (or were) a British pop / rock band consisting of four band members; Damon Albarn (mainly vocals and keyboards), Graham Coxon (Guitar), Alex James (Bass), and Dave Rowntree (Drums). They appeared in 1991, before stopping around 2003 after Damon and Graham had a falling out. They made friends again and re-appeared for some emotional gigs in 2009, including a triumphant headline slot at Glastonbury, and a Hyde park gig recorded and later released . They won the Brit award for “outstanding contribution to music” at the 2012 Brits. If you are British I don’t see how you cannot know who they are. They are pretty much a British institution, most people have a soft spot for them. If you are American, you may know them, might know them for “Song 2”, or won’t have a clue.

Where did I first become acquainted?

Quite probably from fairly early on. In the summer of 1993 I was working in the warehouse of a crappy retail chain. A least it afforded me the opportunity to have the radio on all day, at a time when I was really getting into music again. I loved “For Tomorrow” and was excited about the follow up singles. This being a time when single releases could still be a little exciting. That sounds a bit daft these days. Anyhoo, I got the album “Modern life is rubbish” and never looked back.

Parklife was an even better follow up and took them on to huge success in the UK. In 1995 when they had the singles war with Oasis for number one “Country house” Vs “Roll with it”. I bought both editions of the Blur single. And the Oasis single. Sadly both these efforts were pretty weak for both bands at the time. Still it was fun at the time.

The single Beetlebum actually got me into the band Pavement which in turn gave me one of my favourite albums of all time, Pavement’s “Brighten the corners”.

What to buy:

Depends what mood I’m in. I have everything including the album of remixes, and a live bootleg. However this is my post, so I’m choosing:

  • Blur – The one influenced by American bands after getting a bit fed up of Britpop. Has song 2 (everyones heard of that).
  • Parklife – The 2nd album, the big britpop one, chic full of good tracks and singles.
  • Modern life is rubbish – The second album containing lots of pop, but a bit less melodic than Parklife. Still a fab album, one that reminds me a lot of College.
  • 13 – The broken hearted Damon one, a bit more “art rock” whatever that means, more Graham guitar brilliance, more introspective lyrics.

Some key tracks to listen to:

There is a really good singles compilation (yep I have that too, even though I already have all the tracks), so that is a good place to start. With that in mind, heres some alternative good tracks which might not have been singles (or are just favourites of mine).

  • Sing
  • Theres no other way
  • For Tomorrow (full version not single edit)
  • Tracey Jacks
  • This is a low
  • He thought of cars
  • Yuko and Hiro
  • Beetlebum
  • On your own
  • Moving on
  • coffee and tv
  • battle
  • trimm trabb
  • on the way to the club
  • Black book (b-side to the music is my radar single, really ought to have been on an album)
Blah, blah, so many good tracks. Listen to some tracks here. Check out the video to “The Univeral” below:

Anything to avoid?

The first album “Leisure” is a bit patchy but does have a few very good tracks. “The Great Escape” is a bit overcooked but still decent, so really it should not be in this section.

Anything else?

They have their own website here and a Facebook page if you want to look that up. There is also fabulous film “No distance left to run” which tells the story of Blur and is available in an edition containing one of the hyde park gigs. There is also an old tour film from the Modern life is rubbish era called “Star shaped” (Yep, I have that as well).

Damon Albarn has had a busy music career. You can check out more of his work in the following:

  • Gorillaz
  • The Good, the bad, and the Queen
  • Mali Music
  • Rocket Juice and the moon
  • Dr Dee
Graham also has had a solo career releasing eight albums. Check out:
  • Happiness in magazines
  • The Spinning top
  • A & E
Plenty of books are available but I would recommend “Blur 3862 days, the story of blur” by Stuart Maconie, and band member Alex James book “A bit of Blur“. A large box set “21” containing all the albums (remastered) and plenty of unreleased tracks, is to be released on July 31st 2012 (pictured at the top of the post).

Enjoy!

Lexicon word of the day: eristic. 

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14 comments on “Blur – The alternative take

  1. crubin says:

    I’ve always like the song “Song 2” (and such a creative title 😉 ), but I didn’t know anything about the group. Do now. Thanks. 🙂

    • Elliot says:

      In the UK they really are enormous. Pretty much everyone would know some of the singles. They are doing a gig this summer as part of the olympics closing ceremony (forgot to put that bit in the post). You probably know more of Damon’s work as the main man behind Gorillaz.

      I think Song 2 was one of those songs that came out and was written and finished in 20 minutes. That one travelled really well.

      • crubin says:

        Yeah, I like Gorillaz–well, some of their songs, anyway (Feel Good, Clint Eastwood). Didn’t realize it was the same guy from Blur.

  2. Ann Marquez says:

    Seems I’ve been living under a rock…never heard of them. 😦 But now I have 🙂 Very nice article 😀

  3. *adopts sign of the cross with fingers and hisses*

    I’m an Oasis fan, so I’ll say no more lol 😉

    Xx

  4. DyingNote says:

    I got onto Blur seriously (although I had heard them on and off before) after hearing some of Albarn’s other works (love ‘Rocket Juice…’ and I think I’m going to enjoy Dr. Dee going by the samples I’ve heard from it). Personally – this I’m sure’s been done to death – I prefer Blur to Oasis, although I do like Oasis

    • Elliot says:

      Blur have been a favourite of mine since I was getting into music and defining my own tastes. When Parklife appeared, followed by the Oasis debut, it was fun, but seems like such a long time ago now. I do prefer Blur, and I’ve always liked Graham Coxon’s guitar playing (some of his solo albums are pretty good). I think Oasis seemed to run out of ideas a few albums in. I haven’t got Rocket Juice yet but I intend to, and probably Dr Dee as well. I watched some tracks for the latter performed on Jools Holland, via youtube and they sounded pretty good.

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