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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

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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 April 25, 1994 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released July 30, 2012 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released September 11, 1995 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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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 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 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 September 11, 1995 | 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
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Rock - Released October 30, 2000 | Parlophone UK

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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
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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
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Rock - Released May 5, 2003 | Parlophone UK

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

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Blur dissolved slowly so it follows that their reunion was protracted -- a halting reconvening that produced understated singles and excellent concerts spread out over a period of six years. Finding a headlining appearance at Japan's Tokyo Rocks festival canceled in the summer of 2013, the band holed up in a Hong Kong studio for five days, producing several reels of jams they abandoned until guitarist Graham Coxon decided to shape them into songs with the assistance of producer Stephen Street, the collaborator behind their greatest albums of the '90s. It's an unwieldy history for The Magic Whip, a record that's casually confident and so assured in its attack it feels like a continuation, not a comeback. Certainly, its moody meditations are of piece with Damon Albarn's 2014 Everyday Robots and his noir 2007 project The Good, The Bad & The Queen, but those albums, along with 2005's Demon Days, put into sharp relief that The Magic Whip belongs not to Damon, but to Blur. Often, the rhythm section of bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree announces itself through a churning undertow -- James' loping interjections on "Go Out" call attention to themselves in a manner not dissimilar to "Girls & Boys" -- but Coxon claims this record, easing the band (and listeners) into familiar territory via the bright "Lonesome Street," an evocation of Brit-pop that soon curdles into the gnarly squall of 1997's Blur and then settles into a steady thrum that's reminiscent of 13 but stripped of despair. While it retains trace elements of melancholy, The Magic Whip jettisons the internal turmoil that fueled the turn-of-the-millennium Blur albums -- 13, the record Albarn wrote in the wake of his split with Justine Frischmann, and Think Tank, the album they recorded while the band broke up -- and it also sees the world outside south London, with Albarn skewing all his observations through the prism of Hong Kong, capturing the digital isolation through the pulsating neon rush of mainland Asia. There are hooks, there are songs -- songs that sink their hooks in slowly and fully, registering in the subconscious without notice -- but it's Blur claiming their status as an art-pop band, favoring texture and mood over wit and flash. Like Everyday Robots, there's an existential loneliness thrumming throughout The Magic Whip, but there's also camaraderie, a sense that companionship can pull you through, and that's especially true of Albarn and Coxon, who prove once again to be the other's ideal collaborator, refining, expanding, and sharpening their ideas, turning a potential throwaway to something quietly resonant. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released February 10, 1997 | 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 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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Blur in the magazine
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