14 3 / 2013
You remember the summer of 2012, right? It was brilliant. Everyone in London liked each other for about three weeks. People talked to each other on the tube. People cheered spontaneously in public places when they heard that Team GB had won another gold medal. It will be referred to by social historians in years to come as a strange, freak occurrence.
Blur originally premiered this back in February of that year, just Albarn and Coxon. The full band version was streamed on the band’s website in early summer and released properly (i.e. in physical format) a little after that.
Falling into the rare category of songs written by a reformed band that are as good as the best moments of their previous work (see also: Dinosaur Jr, Mission of Burma), Under The Westway is by turns mournful and uplifting. A melancholy guitar line leads the song in before Albarn begins singing. As with Fool’s Day, the lyrics reference Albarn’s patch of West London. (Throughout Blur’s career, Albarn’s lyrics rarely left the country and now, with Fool’s Day and Under The Westway, they seem to have narrowed their geography down to the dual carriageway flyover near Marylebone).
Sad but hopeful, this song was written especially for the band’s Hyde Park show that unofficially closed the Olympics. The London-centric songs during that performance went down particularly well that night, as the crowd responded with pride in their city mixed with a wistful feeling of knowing that this was the last hurrah before the end of the party.
At least until the Paralympics began, anyway.
14 3 / 2013
14 3 / 2013
It begins with an unearthly guitar that sounds like a revving motorbike, speeding up and slowing down seemingly at random. Eventually you find the pattern and the drums begin, smoky snares making sense of the noise. ‘I remember thinking murder in the car…’
Sunday Sunday this is not.
Positioned at the end of Blur, it’s six minutes of experimental guitar noise (at one point it stops to make a sound like a dentist’s drill) and reflective, spoken word lyrics that recall Damon Albarn’s days growing up in Colchester. There are references to the army barracks and the incessant orange glow of the street lamps that ‘turn the night the colour of orangeade.’
'Either way, you'll catch the flu…or you'll catch the city.' There is no hint of nostalgia here.
18 9 / 2012
Tucked away as one of Chemical World’s b-sides, this (along with Popscene) is Blur’s great undiscovered gem. Albarn would later lament that Young & Lovely never made it on to Modern Life is Rubbish while ‘fucking Turn It Up did’ (Select, 1995).
In keeping with this era of Blur’s tuneful character studies, the song follows a teenager going out on Friday night for the first time. Fairly inconsequential lyrically, Young & Lovely has a wonderful soaring chorus that dips slightly with the change to a Bm chord at the climax.
The song was recently added into the band’s live set for summer 2012’s Hyde Park and warm-up shows. At Hyde Park Albarn noted that the song ‘didn’t make much sense’ at the time it was written, but with various band members being fathers, it had begun to take on a greater resonance.
Should’ve been, if not a single, then certainly on Modern Life is Rubbish.
18 9 / 2012
The Great Escape is a curious album. Partly a continuation of Parklife (recording sessions began shortly after that album’s release), it was more cynical and mean spirited that its predecessor; songs like Globe Alone and Charmless Man mocked their characters in a way that Albarn hadn’t really done before. The album had some duds on it (Mr. Robinson’s Quango being the chief culprit), and some nondescript filler (Entertain Me, Fade Away, Topman), but buried among these uptempo, brash songs were the slower, melancholy tracks: The Universal, Yuko & Hiro, Best Days and, best of all, He Thought of Cars.
The song begins with a jarring fade-in from Coxon’s guitar. The acoustic guitar takes over for Albarn’s strange, vaguely dystopian lyrics from an alternative future. The chorus: ‘He thought of cars / but where / where to drive them’ sounds forlorn and, like the song as a whole, defeated and world-weary.
18 9 / 2012
I love Blur. I’ve loved Blur since 1994, when a schoolfriend handed me a tape he’d got from his sister, whose boyfriend had record it for her. It was Parklife, and had my friend’s sister not had that tape, I probably wouldn’t have the love of music I do now. Actually, that’s not true. I’d still have that love but it would have been channelled somewhere else - possibly into every Queen reissue that has ever existed (Queen being the band I loved the most at the time). Thankfully my ears were saved in time, and any appreciation I have for Queen is restricted to drunken dancefloors.
I was fourteen in 1995, and Britpop was on the rise, still in its energetic early-to-middle phase before Noelrock dragged everything down again by trying to persuade everyone that The Small Faces and The Beatles were the only things worth being influenced by and farting out stodgy chord sequences and choruses you could see coming a mile off. No, 1995 was a glorious year for Britpop: debut albums from Elastica and Supergrass; shiny singles from The Boo Radleys; My Life Story on Top of the Pops. But there were two bands that towered over that year - one from Colchester and one from Manchester.
We all know the Blur vs Oasis story - the chart battle, the Brit Award ceremony, Noel Gallagher’s AIDS outburst, Oasis’s ultimate victory (if this is how you measure this kind of thing) with the pummelling sales tally of Morning Glory outdoing Blur’s The Great Escape over that autumn and winter. In my school, like all others across the country, you were either on the side of Blur or Oasis. My school being ten miles from Colchester, I was firmly rooted in the Blur camp.
This list is subject to regular change, as with any list of songs from a band you love. I haven’t put any restrictions on where the songs come from, or whether there should be one per album. It’s just my favourite ten at this point in time.
26 3 / 2012
21 8 / 2011