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Rock - Released June 14, 2009 | 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
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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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Rock - Released June 29, 2012 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released May 5, 2003 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released October 23, 2000 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released February 28, 2003 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released June 15, 2009 | Parlophone UK

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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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Rock - Released November 23, 2009 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released April 1, 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
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Rock - Released November 23, 2009 | Parlophone UK

Alternative & Indie - Released February 20, 2015 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 23, 2015 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 20, 2015 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 18, 2015 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 21, 2015 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 23, 2015 | Parlophone UK

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Blur in the magazine
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