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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 July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released September 11, 1995 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released April 25, 1994 | Parlophone UK

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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
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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released May 10, 1993 | Parlophone UK

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

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