Review Summary: Before Blur's original line-up dissolution, 13 was released and it shows a highly tense band. Tension, nonetheless, doesn't really imply excellent music, and excellent music isn't always minutes and minutes of “spee-spee-duh-dee-duh-da-blah-blah”.
Sometimes, age and other external factors make you like or dislike certain things. When I was a young man I thought I’d never get married, and now I have three children and two women expecting my monthly check more than I do. Well I don’t actually but I needed a good simile. Like hot cakes, but less cheesy, or something. Expecting things to improve with the years is futile, since the quality of a certain album or song are constant, and won’t change as much as you push it, pull, it, play it, burn it or toil it.
Nonetheless, I’ve found that lately, I reconsidered listening to Blur’s 13 for the fun factor, because I hadn’t revised my CD collection in a while, and because clearly there was no review in this site for the album. >_>
Aside from “Coffee and TV”, my favoritest Blur song, and probably the brit-pop-rock music-song-thingie I adore the most above any other song (who could say no to a milk carton in love?), I bought this album with high expectancies, thinking “Oh man the rest of the album must be awesome”, and hoping to find something in the vein of Blur’s past works, like what’s included in Parklife or even, self-titled. Nonetheless, what I got of this album was, at most, a large “WHAT THE FUCK
” inside my head. Coffee and TV
is unique in the context of 13, and well. It’s my favorite song of the album, there’s nothing about it I could say no. The nice guitar fills, the lyrics… and I think that’s it, heh. It’s a very simplistic song, but very nice, nonetheless. Despite I know the song itself gives nothing new to the world, musically-wise at least, it appeared to be the only song that I played and then pushed stop. But just… sitting and listening has given me a different perspective of the album. The experimental side of Blur is evident from the album cover, something I disregarded or probably in a weird panic attack never even considered. The inside of the booklet contains distinct light pattern spectrums and the cover itself is a painting by guitarist Graham Coxon, named Apprentice
. A little trivia provided by Saint Wikipedia (Jesus Bless freedom of communication).
But as soon as Swamp Song
begins, things are not as pretty as I expected. The ambient is diffuse and the song is heavily guitar-driven, and there are several guitar tracks layered in there, probably in an experimental fashion. The pop tones are, for the most part, shrouded in the weirdness of the guitar sounds elsewhere.
begins with a folkish-bluesy-westernisey (OK I’m really stupid with how guitars sound to be honest), and defines the rhythm of the choruses and what not. Damon’s vocals are either deep or higher-pitched, but I prefer the later present in the choruses. The choral Gospel background is nice but it’s not really my thing, although it makes the song nice and what not. Might turn out nice in a random catholic congregation. To those who listen it’s more than evident the roles of both Albarn and Coxon in the band, at least musically. While Coxon remains in the back, or at least adds the experimental guitar “woioiong chwa chwa” sections in songs like Bugman
, Damon controls the ways of the songs into something at least understandable. Speaking of Bugman, I like the guitar tone, very similar to later Blur sound (Think Tank’s harder songs, maybe…). As I stated, Graham disregards the effects of logic and layers distinct guitar effects to give the sound a certain “chaotic feeling to it”.
is not a song I like a lot. It has very cute soundscapes and very, very sweet effects and what not, but… I don’t know. The ambient is well achieved, but it feels like it drags on too much, especially since there’s no breaking point between this and Swamp Song
, which could like set a limit and make this last song bearable.
And things get weirder, and weirder…
begins with random “spee-spee-duh-dee-duh-da-blah-blah” and kicks into the usual rock-anthem riffs that Graham adores to use. The mix of electronic sounds and fast pace of the song is a good change considering the past two songs, and the experimental sounds finally… make more sense! Despite being disperse and what not, there’s a certain sensation of “hey this sounds good despite I don’t understand it! Awesome! ”. The chorus is also interesting, has a nice ring to it. Another song I kind of liked from the time I bought the album, Battle
, mostly for the dominant drum beat it has, is still in the “let’s put all the sounds we can find together and see what happens”. What happens is an interesting mash of sounds like it happens in Bugman
, because despite the layers and layers of sound, there’s a certain order in how the random sound flashes come in and out. I see no reason why it ends the way it ends, but it’s a cute way to end the song: A swift instrumental jam.
is… that. A nice mellow song. Graham is much better at making soft music, but apparently he prefers the “woioiong chwa chwa ffzhing fzhing”. Nice mellow song, that’s all I can say about it. Trailer Park
has a more operatic, electronic-like kind of beat running, with some synths in the back helping it, which is a nice change, but the ending seems a bit out of place since it’s like a new path and then disappears all of the sudden?… both this songs just went by and I didn’t notice. They are cute and all, but just plain unfocused. There are some sudden guitar layers here or there, but as I stated before, the struggle for presence is evident, and not certainly a good thing.
is along the longest tracks on the album, and just the kick-off tells me it’s going to drag on and on and on with weird guitar sounds and nice soundscapes, but as other songs the lyrics fade into random “laaa leee looo aaaahhhh” and guitar is the one in charge to maintain the song interesting. Instead of going the easier path, which would be just shredding in some random mode, Coxon’s attempt in the song is more driven towards creating a nice atmosphere, but it falls short. The good thing they did though, was not making the song drags on stupidly long. Again, the song fades and begins a short instrumental break. Trimm Trabb
is another one of those guitar driven songs, but begins in a normal fashion… probably just the continuation of what has been going on up to this moment, and then begins a very nice song.
No Distance Left to Run
, a widely favorited song by people, is… oh my! In the vein of more “normal” songs by Blur. A very mellow song, very sad, and contained. A weird thing up to this point of the album. Finally, Optigan 1
closes the album, once again using synthesizers, soft drums following in the back, and a bell chiming in the back. And the album ends.
So what can I say about this? I feel confused, and that’s exactly how the album feels: Confused. I see diverse music influences but instead of mashing and creating something nice and unique, it feels like… they are struggling to be above the other. The ambient tries to get over rhythmic music, and they come back and forth but there’s no evident presence from one or other, the sounds just clash and it feels out of place, period. Nonetheless, it has some greatly achieved moments, which makes it a bit better than average, and the experimental sounds are also nifty but don’t quite fit the Blur we all love and appreciate. I think all the album needed was focus and well. We all know this was the last album Graham Coxon participated as a Blur member, and this is a good psychological study of what happened and why they are not anymore. Oh well, they are now I think again, but anyway. It’s a godo album to listen to, it just needed to be more “Coffee and TV” and less “Caramel”.
Oh! The lyrics. Yeah well, the theme of the album overall is, breaking up, Apparently, Damon was extremely heart-broken by the time this album was written, and the lyrics show. Songs like "Tender" that pray the girl to come back at him show some nice moments of sorrow here or there, and they are well written, nonetheless, when 9 out of 11 songs are thematically-guided towards heart-brokeness (if that's even a stage) turn out to be boring and repetitive. Tender and Coffee and TV have very sweet lyrics.
- tojeam reviü crü and them