I moved to Atlanta in the early spring of 2000. A local radio station I had recently discovered recorded regular live concerts of bands such as the Foo Fighters, Incubus, and Stone Temple Pilots in a small, intimate acoustic set. Another one of the bands who performed a Live X concert, as it was called, was the British band Blur. One evening, the station was playing the Blur Live X while I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep. I thought I'd give them a shot, as their famous Song 2
was still seeing decent airplay on American radio stations. The one word I can think of for my initial reaction was shock. Either the band was messing around or they were having a very off night. They sounded terrible. From then on, I considered them a one-hit wonder with Song 2
and good for nothing else.
Fast forward a few years. The song Crazy Beat
from Think Tank
was a hit. In the local Barnes and Noble, I went to the Blur section to check it out. I also noticed they had a hits album in the rack. As a joke (still remembering the horrible live show I had heard), I took the album to the scanner to give it a listen. Again, the only word I can think of for my reaction was shock. However, this was a good kind of shock. I promptly forgot about Think Tank
and gladly shelled out the eighteen dollars Barnes and Noble charges for everything (If I gladly shell out more than $14.00 for a CD, it must be good).
How could I explain the sound of the record to myself? Being American (and really young at the height of their popularity), I missed out on most of the Blur vs. Oasis battles in the early and mid '90's. I still hear things about a north-south divide (Which I'm still a bit murky on exactly what it is) and what not, but what matters is that this record was full of catchy Brit-Pop hooks, great guitar work, and some different sounding songs as well. After giving this record a listen, I was almost slightly angry -- Angry at the fact that besides Song 2
(Which most of my friends still insist is called "Woo-Hoo"), Blur never was a huge player in the American market like their (slightly inferior) nemesis Oasis.
As for a way to explain the general sound of the band to people who haven't heard a lot of their stuff, I think Med puts it best in his review of Parklife
. They have the slightly more arty, more 'British' sound to them. Whereas Oasis can be compared to the Beatles, Blur is similar to bands like the Kinks. Graham Coxon's guitar work isn't over the top flashy or virtuosic, but he has a penchant for writing hooks that will be stuck in your head for a good while, and his ability to seamlessly blend in with the rest of the band, rather than try to steal the spotlight the whole time is another strength. At the times when he is in the spotlight, however, you'd be amazed at what the almost unheard of (in America, at least) Coxon can do. In one phrase, it's smart Britpop.
Blur's best of album spans many different styles. There's the light, feel-good Coffee & TV
, the slightly silly Parklife
, the very electronic/disco-themed Girls $ Boys
, and the beautiful, almost distant This Is a Low
. This wide range of styles gives them a slight edge over Oasis, in my opinion, due to the fact that not all the songs sound the same. Rather than the usual listing of tracks in chronological order, the disc follows more of the order on a concert set list, giving good transitions from song to song. Since it is a greatest hits album, there are few weak tracks. Plus, instead of giving you only ten or eleven songs, you get eighteen of them.
As with any album, there are some flaws. First, being American, many of the lyrical meaning is admittedly lost (i.e. on Parklife
). A couple songs (Tender
and Music Is My Radar
) seem to drag on a bit too long. Also, the band elected to leave out some sections of their career, including a lot of material from Modern Life is Rubbish
. Being largely unfamiliar with their work outside of this album, it's less of a loss to me, but to people more familiar with their catalogue, this can be considered quite irksome.
However, as I said before, since this is a greatest hits album, even the relatively weak tracks are still worth a listen. I hardly skip anything on here. If you missed out on Blur the same way I did, this should be a great way to introduce yourself to what I feel are a great Brit-Pop band with some interesting and different sounds. If you give it a listen, you may start to get angry like I do; angry because you'll be left wanting more, and it's almost impossible to find their albums in the big stores around here.
Very underrated guitar work.
Almost no tracks that I would skip.
Wide range of styles, especially for a pop-rock band.
Some of the lyrics can get lost on an American audience.
A couple songs are a bit on the long side.
Where's Disc 2?
Tracks I Like:
There's No Other Way
Coffee & TV
Girls & Boys
This is a Low
For Tomorrow (My personal favorite Blur Song)
Anyhow, this is the resident redneck's take on Blur's Best Of album. I know I may not be the best expert on them, as they only made a small impact on the US, but I gave it my best shot. If you have any other comments and/or suggestions, or feel that in my American ignorance I left something out, please tell me. For being an excellent compilation for a good band that leaves out a few small things, I give it 4/5 rating.
PS: Also, don't take any of the remarks about Oasis to heart, I think they're still a really good band. I was making those comments for the sake of comparison.