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13

Rock - Released March 15, 1999 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Blur's penitence for Brit-pop continues with the aptly named 13, which deals with star-crossed situations like personal and professional breakups with Damon Albarn's longtime girlfriend, Justine Frischmann of Elastica, and the group's longtime producer, Stephen Street. Building on Blur's un-pop experiments, the group's ambitions to expand their musical and emotional horizons result in a half-baked baker's dozen of songs, featuring some of their most creative peaks and self-indulgent valleys. Albarn has been criticized for lacking depth in his songwriting, but his ballads remain some of Blur's best moments. When Albarn and crew risk some honesty, 13 shines: on "Tender," Albarn is battered and frail, urged by a lush gospel choir to "get through it." His confiding continues on "1992," which alludes to the beginning -- and ending -- of his relationship with Frischmann. On "No Distance Left to Run," one of 13's most moving moments, Albarn addresses post-breakup ambivalence, sighing, "I hope you're with someone who makes you feel safe while you sleep." While these songs reflect Albarn's romantic chaos, "Mellow Song," "Caramel," and "Trimm Trabb" express day-to-day desperation. Musically, the saddest songs on 13 are also the clearest, mixing electronic and acoustic elements in sleek but heartfelt harmony. However, "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." is a by-the-numbers rave-up, and the blustery "Swamp Song" and "Bugman" nick Blur's old punky glam pop style but sound misplaced here. "Trailerpark" veers in yet another direction, a too-trendy trip-hop rip-off that emphasizes the band's musical fog, proving that William Orbit's kitchen-sink production doesn't serve the songs' -- or the band's -- best interests. 13's strange, frustrating combination of expert musicianship and self-indulgence reveals the sound of a band trying to find itself. With some closer editing, this could have been the emotionally deep, sonically wide album Blur yearns to make. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 25, 1994 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Modern Life Is Rubbish established Blur as the heir to the archly British pop of the Kinks, the Small Faces, and the Jam, but its follow-up, Parklife, revealed the depth of that transformation. Relying more heavily on Ray Davies' seriocomic social commentary, as well as new wave, Parklife runs through the entire history of post-British Invasion Britpop in the course of 16 songs, touching on psychedelia, synth pop, disco, punk, and music hall along the way. Damon Albarn intended these songs to form a sketch of British life in the mid-'90s, and it's startling how close he came to his goal; not only did the bouncy, disco-fied "Girls & Boys" and singalong chant "Parklife" become anthems in the U.K., but they inaugurated a new era of Brit-pop and lad culture, where British youth celebrated their country and traditions. The legions of jangly, melodic bands that followed in the wake of Parklife revealed how much more complex Blur's vision was. Not only was their music precisely detailed -- sound effects and brilliant guitar lines pop up all over the record -- but the melodies elegantly interweaved with the chords, as in the graceful, heartbreaking "Badhead." Surprisingly, Albarn, for all of his cold, dispassionate wit, demonstrates compassion that gives these songs three dimensions, as on the pathos-laden "End of a Century," the melancholy Walker Brothers tribute "To the End," and the swirling, epic closer, "This Is a Low." For all of its celebration of tradition, Parklife is a thoroughly modern record in that it bends genres and is self-referential (the mod anthem of the title track is voiced by none other than Phil Daniels, the star of Quadrophenia). And, by tying the past and the present together, Blur articulated the mid-'90s Zeitgeist and produced an epoch-defining record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 21, 2003 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released September 11, 1995 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
In the simplest terms, The Great Escape is the flip side of Parklife. Where Blur's breakthrough album was a celebration of the working class, drawing on British pop from the '60s and reaching through the '80s, The Great Escape concentrates on the suburbs, featuring a cast of characters all trying to cope with the numbing pressures of modern life. Consequently, it's darker than Parklife, even if the melancholia is hidden underneath the crisp production and catchy melodies. Even the bright, infectious numbers on The Great Escape have gloomy subtexts, whether it's the disillusioned millionaire of "Country House" and the sycophant of "Charmless Man" or the bleak loneliness of "Globe Alone" and "Entertain Me." Naturally, the slower numbers are even more despairing, with the acoustic "Best Days," the lush, sweeping strings of "The Universal," and the stark, moving electronic ballad "Yuko & Hiro" ranking as the most affecting work Blur has ever recorded. However, none of this makes The Great Escape a burden or a difficult album. The music bristles with invention throughout, as Blur delves deeper into experimentation with synthesizers, horns, and strings; guitarist Graham Coxon twists out unusual chords and lead lines, and Damon Albarn spits out unexpected lyrical couplets filled with wit and venomous intelligence in each song. But Blur's most remarkable accomplishment is that it can reference the past -- the Scott Walker homage of "The Universal," the Terry Hall/Fun Boy Three cop on "Top Man," the skittish, XTC-flavored pop of "It Could Be You," and Albarn's devotion to Ray Davies -- while still moving forward, creating a vibrant, invigorating record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Blur's penitence for Brit-pop continues with the aptly named 13, which deals with star-crossed situations like personal and professional breakups with Damon Albarn's longtime girlfriend, Justine Frischmann of Elastica, and the group's longtime producer, Stephen Street. Building on Blur's un-pop experiments, the group's ambitions to expand their musical and emotional horizons result in a half-baked baker's dozen of songs, featuring some of their most creative peaks and self-indulgent valleys. Albarn has been criticized for lacking depth in his songwriting, but his ballads remain some of Blur's best moments. When Albarn and crew risk some honesty, 13 shines: on "Tender," Albarn is battered and frail, urged by a lush gospel choir to "get through it." His confiding continues on "1992," which alludes to the beginning -- and ending -- of his relationship with Frischmann. On "No Distance Left to Run," one of 13's most moving moments, Albarn addresses post-breakup ambivalence, sighing, "I hope you're with someone who makes you feel safe while you sleep." While these songs reflect Albarn's romantic chaos, "Mellow Song," "Caramel," and "Trimm Trabb" express day-to-day desperation. Musically, the saddest songs on 13 are also the clearest, mixing electronic and acoustic elements in sleek but heartfelt harmony. However, "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." is a by-the-numbers rave-up, and the blustery "Swamp Song" and "Bugman" nick Blur's old punky glam pop style but sound misplaced here. "Trailerpark" veers in yet another direction, a too-trendy trip-hop rip-off that emphasizes the band's musical fog, proving that William Orbit's kitchen-sink production doesn't serve the songs' -- or the band's -- best interests. 13's strange, frustrating combination of expert musicianship and self-indulgence reveals the sound of a band trying to find itself. With some closer editing, this could have been the emotionally deep, sonically wide album Blur yearns to make. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1995 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
In the simplest terms, The Great Escape is the flip side of Parklife. Where Blur's breakthrough album was a celebration of the working class, drawing on British pop from the '60s and reaching through the '80s, The Great Escape concentrates on the suburbs, featuring a cast of characters all trying to cope with the numbing pressures of modern life. Consequently, it's darker than Parklife, even if the melancholia is hidden underneath the crisp production and catchy melodies. Even the bright, infectious numbers on The Great Escape have gloomy subtexts, whether it's the disillusioned millionaire of "Country House" and the sycophant of "Charmless Man" or the bleak loneliness of "Globe Alone" and "Entertain Me." Naturally, the slower numbers are even more despairing, with the acoustic "Best Days," the lush, sweeping strings of "The Universal," and the stark, moving electronic ballad "Yuko & Hiro" ranking as the most affecting work Blur has ever recorded. However, none of this makes The Great Escape a burden or a difficult album. The music bristles with invention throughout, as Blur delves deeper into experimentation with synthesizers, horns, and strings; guitarist Graham Coxon twists out unusual chords and lead lines, and Damon Albarn spits out unexpected lyrical couplets filled with wit and venomous intelligence in each song. But Blur's most remarkable accomplishment is that it can reference the past -- the Scott Walker homage of "The Universal," the Terry Hall/Fun Boy Three cop on "Top Man," the skittish, XTC-flavored pop of "It Could Be You," and Albarn's devotion to Ray Davies -- while still moving forward, creating a vibrant, invigorating record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 25, 1994 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released January 29, 1997 | Parlophone UK

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In 1997, after helping define ’90s Britpop, Blur unexpectedly embraced American indie rock. Led by guitarist Graham Coxon's love of artists like Dinosaur Jr. and Beck, the band took cues from the former's trembling lo-fi aesthetic on "You're So Great" (the rare track sung by Coxon) and the latter's early laconic weirdness on songs "Killer for Your Love" and "Country Sad Ballad Man." But even if you take the boys out of Brittania, you can't take the national influences out of the band. Opener "Beetlebum", a dreamy ode to drugs, comes on like a lost late-era Beatles track. "M.O.R." slips and slides with Pavement-style guitar but also lifts a chord progression right from Bowie’s "Boys Keep Swinging", while "Strange News From Another Star" is Sebadoh by way of Ziggy Stardust. But it's "Song 2" that steals the show; with its rip-roaring bass line, Damon Albarn’s deadpan-to-shout vocals, fuzzed-out guitars and compulsive "Whoo-hoo!" it’s an immediate classic. © Qobuz
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Rock - Released October 30, 2000 | Parlophone UK

It's boring to point out omissions on hits compilations, especially when a collection is as generous as the 18-track The Best of Blur, but let's do it anyway. The Best of Blur largely bypasses the group's key album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, the record that invented Brit-pop, skewing in favor of the self-consciously "experimental" 13, which, for all of its attributes, wasn't a singles album. Plus, the group continues to punish the British record-buying public by not including the brilliant "Popscene" (to beat a dead horse, the single that invented Brit-pop), since nobody bought it at the time. So, without "Popscene," "Chemical World" or "Sunday Sunday," a crucial chapter of Blur's history is missing from The Best of Blur -- the chapter where they essentially became Blur. It's to their immense credit that the album doesn't feel like it's missing anything, since these singles (plus one album track) are dazzling on their own. Of course, the trick is that the record isn't assembled chronologically. Instead, it flows like a set list, complete with the set closer "This Is a Low" followed by a two-song encore that ends with the new song (the good, not great, "Music Is My Radar"), which not only gives it a momentum of its own, but draws attention to the songs themselves. And "dazzling" isn't really hyperbole -- based on these 18 songs, Blur isn't just the best pop band of the '90s, with greater range and depth than their peers, they rank among the best pop bands of all time. The Best of Blur illustrates that, even as it misses some of their best moments -- omissions that prevent it from being the flat-out classic it should be. Even so, it's pretty damn terrific, particularly for the unconverted. [And, for the hardcore, there's not just "Music Is My Radar," there's a special limited-edition double-disc version of The Best of Blur, containing a bonus ten-track, 45-minute live album, recorded at Wembley Arena in December of 1999. Lots of track duplication between this disc and the first, but "Stereotypes" and "M.O.R." are present, and the entire thing is a lot of fun -- they are a terrific live band, after all -- even if it doesn't hold any particular revelations.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 11, 1995 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 24, 2015 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released May 10, 1993 | Parlophone UK

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As a response to the dominance of grunge in the U.K. and their own decreasing profile in their homeland -- and also as a response to Suede's sudden popularity -- Blur reinvented themselves with their second album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, abandoning the shoegazing and baggy influences that dominated Leisure for traditional pop. On the surface, Modern Life may appear to be an homage to the Kinks, David Bowie, the Beatles, and Syd Barrett, yet it isn't a restatement, it's a revitalization. Blur use British guitar pop from the Beatles to My Bloody Valentine as a foundation, spinning off tales of contemporary despair. If Damon Albarn weren't such a clever songwriter, both lyrically and melodically, Modern Life could have sunk under its own pretensions, and the latter half does drag slightly. However, the record teems with life, since Blur refuse to treat their classicist songs as museum pieces. Graham Coxon's guitar tears each song open, either with unpredictable melodic lines or layers of translucent, hypnotic effects, and his work creates great tension with Alex James' kinetic bass. And that provides Albarn a vibrant background for his social satires and cutting commentary. But the reason Modern Life Is Rubbish is such a dynamic record and ushered in a new era of British pop is that nearly every song is carefully constructed and boasts a killer melody, from the stately "For Tomorrow" and the punky "Advert" to the vaudeville stomp of "Sunday Sunday" and the neo-psychedelic "Chemical World." Even with its flaws, it's a record of considerable vision and excitement. [Most American versions of Modern Life Is Rubbish substitute the demo version of "Chemical World" for the studio version on the British edition. They also add the superb single "Pop Scene" before the final song, "Resigned."] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

As Blur commenced recording on Think Tank, their seventh album, things got a little weird. Tensions between vocalist/songwriter Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon reached a boiling point following Albarn's success with his dance-oriented side project, Gorillaz, leading him to assert dominance over the band, all of which was at odds with a newly sober and somber Coxon, whose solo records were doggedly designed to appeal to small audiences. According to most press reports, the breaking point was Albarn bringing Fatboy Slim in for production work in Morocco (it's hard to write those words without believing them to be parody), leading toward Coxon's acrimonious departure and the turgid mess that is Think Tank. Given the Gorillaz and Fatboy Slim (who, after all the brouhaha, only produced two tracks) connections, it's easy to assume that Albarn is pushing Blur toward a heavy, heavy dance album, which isn't strictly true, partially because the band always have traded in alternative dance. Still, there's been a shift in approach. Where they used to use disco and house beats as a foundation (see "Girls and Boys" or "Entertain Me"), Blur now borrow modern dance's fondness, even reliance, on atmosphere over song and structure -- which is kind of ironic, of course, since the group have always excelled at song and structure in the past. In the post-Coxon era, all that's tossed aside as Albarn turns his attention to electronic art-rock as thin as a dime. Make no mistake, even if bassist Alex James and Dave Rowntree are along for the ride, this is the sound of Albarn run amuck, a (perhaps inevitable) development that even voracious Blur supporters secretly feared could ruin the band -- and it has. Why? Because Albarn's talents cry out for a collaborator. He has great ideas but he needs help not just in the execution, but sorting out what ideas are good. The problem is, he's charismatic enough to coast by on his book smarts and good looks, until somebody -- Coxon, Stephen Street, Dan the Automator -- calls him into check, and now that he's had enough success, he's convinced he can do it on his own. So, Think Tank is the Damon Show, and it reveals that the emperor has no clothes or sense. Apart from the fine, deliberate opening gambit of "Ambulance" and "Out of Time" -- the first a perfectly arranged, ominously lush mood piece; the other a hushed, melancholic elegy in the same vein as "To the End" and "Tender," though not as good as either -- Think Tank sounds for all the world exactly like Blur B-sides from Parklife to Blur, complete with the hiccupping analog synths and meandering instrumentals, but without the sense of songcraft and with less imaginative arrangements (remember, elastic codas with a noodling saxophone line do not equal experimental; it's lazy focus). Those songs that do sound more substantial than B-sides are severely hurt by Coxon's absence: Witness the pleasantly sweet "Good Song," built on a Pro-Tools acoustic guitar loop which drains the song of emotion, when Graham would have let the song breathe, or how the creepy crawl of "Battery in Your Leg" winds up eating its own tail through its hermetically sealed arrangement. These problems all derive from one simple thing -- since Albarn has nobody to challenge him, he's unwittingly pawning off an album of half-baked demos and unfinished B-sides. And this isn't the result of a musical departure, unless you count the departure of songwriting -- this is the sound of Blur without the hooks, smarts, tunes, or even the sense of adventure. Sure, it might be easier to accept if it was called a Damon Albarn solo album, but that's splitting hairs. A lousy album is a lousy album, no matter who gets credit. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

In 1997, after helping define ’90s Britpop, Blur unexpectedly embraced American indie rock. Led by guitarist Graham Coxon's love of artists like Dinosaur Jr. and Beck, the band took cues from the former's trembling lo-fi aesthetic on "You're So Great" (the rare track sung by Coxon) and the latter's early laconic weirdness on songs "Killer for Your Love" and "Country Sad Ballad Man." But even if you take the boys out of Brittania, you can't take the national influences out of the band. Opener "Beetlebum", a dreamy ode to drugs, comes on like a lost late-era Beatles track. "M.O.R." slips and slides with Pavement-style guitar but also lifts a chord progression right from Bowie’s "Boys Keep Swinging", while "Strange News From Another Star" is Sebadoh by way of Ziggy Stardust. But it's "Song 2" that steals the show; with its rip-roaring bass line, Damon Albarn’s deadpan-to-shout vocals, fuzzed-out guitars and compulsive "Whoo-hoo!" it’s an immediate classic. © Qobuz
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Rock - Released August 13, 2012 | Parlophone Records Limited

Blur headlined a Brit-pop blowout at Hyde Park on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic games, a concert that not so coincidentally also capped off a flurry of Blur-related activity. The band celebrated its 21st anniversary in grand fashion, reissuing its catalog as deluxe double-disc sets, boxing these deluxe editions in a mammoth rarities-laden box set called Blur 21, releasing a good reunion single in "Under the Westway"/"The Puritan," and, finally, performing this concert, releasing it digitally the following week as the double-album Parklive (which is due to be expanded into a five-CD box later in the year). Given the amount of time the reunited Blur spent trawling through their back pages, it's not much of a surprise that the set list of Parklive is constructed as a chronicle of their past, one that touches lightly on their beginnings and end -- there's one song apiece from Leisure and Think Tank -- one that accentuates two through-lines in their history: the churning, darkly psychedelic art rock band and the proudly patriotic, albeit wildly sardonic, British pop group. Considering the occasion, Blur serve up plenty of the former, playing roughly half of Parklife -- Phil Daniels himself comes out to bark out the title track -- and have fun digging deep, playing "London Loves," which has rarely ever been played on-stage. This isn't the only rarity here -- they haul out the Modern Life Is Rubbish B-side "Young and Lovely," which Damon Albarn introduces with a preamble dedicating it to the band's children, an acknowledgment of Blur's advancing years, a subject he also alludes to by changing a lyric on "End of a Century" to "as you get closer to 50." Blur are indeed now 20 years on from their '90s peak and it's evident in the music: where they were once frenetic they are now muscular and Albarn's ambition has mellowed into a quiet confidence. The passing of time has only increased Blur's stature as a British treasure and this is a concert that suits their status: it's crowd-pleasing without pandering, the knotty "Caramel" and "Trimm Trabb" fitting neatly next to "Sunday Sunday," the new "Under the Westway" gaining resonance when placed near "Sing" and "For Tomorrow." The latter is just enough to suggest that Blur could continue to build upon their legacy, but if this turns out to be a farewell, it is one that is triumphant. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

"She's So High" and "There's No Other Way" were auspicious debut singles, alternately trancy and melodic, suggesting how shoegazing and baggy beats could be incorporated into pop song structures. Both songs suggested that Blur was capable of a striking debut album, but Leisure wasn't it. Mired by directionless soundscapes and incomplete songwriting, Leisure was nevertheless full of promise. Whenever the group tread close to the warped psychedelia of Syd Barrett, their compositions sprang to life, and "Sing" was an eerie, entrancing minor-key drone reminiscent of the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs." Those moments, however, were few and far between on Leisure, since much of the record was devoted to either naïve pop like "Bang" or washes of feedback and effects. From Leisure, it appeared that Blur was only capable of a pair of fine singles, which is what made the complete reinvention of Modern Life Is Rubbish such a surprise. [For the American release of Leisure, SBK Records lopped off one of the album's best songs, "Sing," and shuffled the running order for no apparent reason other than having "She's So High" and "There's No Other Way" appear first.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 25, 1994 | Parlophone UK

Modern Life Is Rubbish established Blur as the heir to the archly British pop of the Kinks, the Small Faces, and the Jam, but its follow-up, Parklife, revealed the depth of that transformation. Relying more heavily on Ray Davies' seriocomic social commentary, as well as new wave, Parklife runs through the entire history of post-British Invasion Britpop in the course of 16 songs, touching on psychedelia, synth pop, disco, punk, and music hall along the way. Damon Albarn intended these songs to form a sketch of British life in the mid-'90s, and it's startling how close he came to his goal; not only did the bouncy, disco-fied "Girls & Boys" and singalong chant "Parklife" become anthems in the U.K., but they inaugurated a new era of Brit-pop and lad culture, where British youth celebrated their country and traditions. The legions of jangly, melodic bands that followed in the wake of Parklife revealed how much more complex Blur's vision was. Not only was their music precisely detailed -- sound effects and brilliant guitar lines pop up all over the record -- but the melodies elegantly interweaved with the chords, as in the graceful, heartbreaking "Badhead." Surprisingly, Albarn, for all of his cold, dispassionate wit, demonstrates compassion that gives these songs three dimensions, as on the pathos-laden "End of a Century," the melancholy Walker Brothers tribute "To the End," and the swirling, epic closer, "This Is a Low." For all of its celebration of tradition, Parklife is a thoroughly modern record in that it bends genres and is self-referential (the mod anthem of the title track is voiced by none other than Phil Daniels, the star of Quadrophenia). And, by tying the past and the present together, Blur articulated the mid-'90s Zeitgeist and produced an epoch-defining record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 5, 2003 | Parlophone UK

As Blur commenced recording on Think Tank, their seventh album, things got a little weird. Tensions between vocalist/songwriter Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon reached a boiling point following Albarn's success with his dance-oriented side project, Gorillaz, leading him to assert dominance over the band, all of which was at odds with a newly sober and somber Coxon, whose solo records were doggedly designed to appeal to small audiences. According to most press reports, the breaking point was Albarn bringing Fatboy Slim in for production work in Morocco (it's hard to write those words without believing them to be parody), leading toward Coxon's acrimonious departure and the turgid mess that is Think Tank. Given the Gorillaz and Fatboy Slim (who, after all the brouhaha, only produced two tracks) connections, it's easy to assume that Albarn is pushing Blur toward a heavy, heavy dance album, which isn't strictly true, partially because the band always have traded in alternative dance. Still, there's been a shift in approach. Where they used to use disco and house beats as a foundation (see "Girls and Boys" or "Entertain Me"), Blur now borrow modern dance's fondness, even reliance, on atmosphere over song and structure -- which is kind of ironic, of course, since the group have always excelled at song and structure in the past. In the post-Coxon era, all that's tossed aside as Albarn turns his attention to electronic art-rock as thin as a dime. Make no mistake, even if bassist Alex James and Dave Rowntree are along for the ride, this is the sound of Albarn run amuck, a (perhaps inevitable) development that even voracious Blur supporters secretly feared could ruin the band -- and it has. Why? Because Albarn's talents cry out for a collaborator. He has great ideas but he needs help not just in the execution, but sorting out what ideas are good. The problem is, he's charismatic enough to coast by on his book smarts and good looks, until somebody -- Coxon, Stephen Street, Dan the Automator -- calls him into check, and now that he's had enough success, he's convinced he can do it on his own. So, Think Tank is the Damon Show, and it reveals that the emperor has no clothes or sense. Apart from the fine, deliberate opening gambit of "Ambulance" and "Out of Time" -- the first a perfectly arranged, ominously lush mood piece; the other a hushed, melancholic elegy in the same vein as "To the End" and "Tender," though not as good as either -- Think Tank sounds for all the world exactly like Blur B-sides from Parklife to Blur, complete with the hiccupping analog synths and meandering instrumentals, but without the sense of songcraft and with less imaginative arrangements (remember, elastic codas with a noodling saxophone line do not equal experimental; it's lazy focus). Those songs that do sound more substantial than B-sides are severely hurt by Coxon's absence: Witness the pleasantly sweet "Good Song," built on a Pro-Tools acoustic guitar loop which drains the song of emotion, when Graham would have let the song breathe, or how the creepy crawl of "Battery in Your Leg" winds up eating its own tail through its hermetically sealed arrangement. These problems all derive from one simple thing -- since Albarn has nobody to challenge him, he's unwittingly pawning off an album of half-baked demos and unfinished B-sides. And this isn't the result of a musical departure, unless you count the departure of songwriting -- this is the sound of Blur without the hooks, smarts, tunes, or even the sense of adventure. Sure, it might be easier to accept if it was called a Damon Albarn solo album, but that's splitting hairs. A lousy album is a lousy album, no matter who gets credit. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 2, 2019 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released August 27, 1991 | Parlophone UK

"She's So High" and "There's No Other Way" were auspicious debut singles, alternately trancy and melodic, suggesting how shoegazing and baggy beats could be incorporated into pop song structures. Both songs suggested that Blur was capable of a striking debut album, but Leisure wasn't it. Mired by directionless soundscapes and incomplete songwriting, Leisure was nevertheless full of promise. Whenever the group tread close to the warped psychedelia of Syd Barrett, their compositions sprang to life, and "Sing" was an eerie, entrancing minor-key drone reminiscent of the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs." Those moments, however, were few and far between on Leisure, since much of the record was devoted to either naïve pop like "Bang" or washes of feedback and effects. From Leisure, it appeared that Blur was only capable of a pair of fine singles, which is what made the complete reinvention of Modern Life Is Rubbish such a surprise. [For the American release of Leisure, SBK Records lopped off one of the album's best songs, "Sing," and shuffled the running order for no apparent reason other than having "She's So High" and "There's No Other Way" appear first.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Artist

Blur in the magazine
  • The Qobuz Minute #36
    The Qobuz Minute #36 Presented by Barry Moore, The Qobuz Minute sweeps you away to the 4 corners of the musical universe to bring you an eclectic mix of today's brightest talents. Jazz, Electro, Classical, World music ...
  • Blur, Back with a Bang
    Blur, Back with a Bang Blur have at long last broken their 12 years of silence