Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blur - Blur (1997)

I figured I'd be more populist and modern with this next post. Allow me first to issue a brief caveat: I consider Blur to be an indulgence, a band whose aspirations seem to lie no farther than the continuation of a post-Kinks pastoral rock. At best, they are supremely infectious; at worst, imitators who remind me of the greatness of the originals; but all in all, Blur is so veddy British and I dig that (not to mention that Graham Coxon lays down some super tasty guitar riffs.) That said, I place this album as the first piece in my holy triumvirate of 1997 (along with OK Computer and Urban Hymns).

But what inevitably brings me to choose and glorify their self-titled über-bomb? Surely, it's their best-known album commercially, and perhaps there's justifiably good reason for that. It's a nicely sequenced encapsulation or a distillation, if you will, of their overall sound, which is to say, conversely, that it sounds every bit like their influences. Their first album, Leisure, was a kind of shoe-gazing throwback to the 70s; their second, Modern Life Is Rubbish, was a more energetic and focused throwback to the 70s. Parklife broke some nice musical ground for them just as The Great Escape was an abomination moving backwards. Blur, then, is simply the rounding off and sublimation of all their previous efforts; the third charm, so to speak, except it was the fifth. Whatever. Is this reason enough to hate them? Perhaps, but they're just too much damn fun to hate -- and at least they tried to meld their influences instead of just trying to be The Beatles.

In my opinion, "Beetlebum" is simply Blur's best song to date, but as an American you wouldn't know it because of its successor single "Song 2" and subsequent cultural explosion into mainstream Americana. Perhaps five minutes of a beautiful distorted guitar riff was too eternal for MTV,

and a two-minute anthem with accompanying video of a band bouncing around what look like Turkish carpets singing "wee hoo" simply resonated better. Serving even better contrast is the song that follows, "Country Sad Ballad Man," a nice psychedelic-tinged ditty; "M.O.R." -- likewise a great track if only because it reminds us of why Bowie was so great. Hell, this album is just great; in a way, a tribute, but full of verve and flaws and a blur of what the band loved to create but couldn't escape from. I suppose about the only thing you should avoid from this album are the music videos, where Damon Albarn reveals himself to be more of a ham than we already suspected him of being. But hey, whatever. B+

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