02 2 / 2014

As well as being the best song from Leisure, Sing also doesn’t sound like anything else on it. Several droney guitar lines merged together, a looped snare hit, simple minor key piano chords, a restless bassline and off-kilter time signature come together to create six minutes of fuzzy melancholy. The verses with their vague, semi-mumbled lyrics (‘I can’t feel / ‘cos I’m numb’) give way to huge wordless choruses and the simple plea of ‘sing to me’. 

The best bit is when everything drops out to leave just the bass and drums for a few bars before the guitar comes howling back in. Still gives me goosebumps when I listen to it.

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

Latest pictures from wandering around London.

Latest pictures from wandering around London.

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.

10 5 / 2012

Allo Darlin’ - The Letter

A descending five-note guitar figure, a beautiful minor key outro, an indelible melody and four minutes of wistful reflection mark this as one of the standouts from Allo Darlin’s new album Europe. It’s a record full of stories of travelling and heavy with the knowledge that no matter how much fun you’re having in the moment, it can’t continue forever.  

Singer/songwriter Elizabeth Morris’s Australian-inflected vowels remind you how far she is from home when she sings about trips in her old university car, southern constellations and nights spent at Bondi Beach and Coogee Bay. There is longing in her lyrics, for what might’ve been, what was, and the hope of what could be again. 

It’s a beautiful record, and one that’s wonderfully played by the four band members (not a note is wasted across its entire forty-minute runtime). It lifts you out of your morning bus ride to work and sets you down in a party on holiday the night before you have to go home. But when the songs are this good, there’s no need to feel sad.

26 3 / 2012

It’s been too long since I listened to My Bloody Valentine.  Sony have announced reissues of practically everything MBV from 1988 onwards with extra tracks and outtakes, which is good news for me, but bad news for both my wallet and my current tinnitus-free existence.

26 3 / 2012

Waterloo
Walking from the station to my office I walked past these guys asleep on the pavement opposite the Homeless London shelter on Webber Street.

Waterloo

Walking from the station to my office I walked past these guys asleep on the pavement opposite the Homeless London shelter on Webber Street.