Blur’s eponymous album represented a turning point in their music. Prior to this album Blur had been a straightforward Britpop band who had never quite made it in America. Two minutes and one second of pure pop genius later and they were being played on almost every radio station in the country. Who can forget the shouts of “Woo Hoo” as Graham Coxom kicked the distortion to 11 and rocked out with one of the most memorable riffs of the 90’s. That song was, of course, “Song 2”, perhaps one of clearest song names of all time (it’s track two on the album as you may have guessed). It may be surprising to learn, however, that the rest of the album lives up to this high standard set early on.
Usually, when the press mentions that a band, especially a BRITPOP band, has “become more sophisticated” its best to stay as far away as possible and hope that no one corners you and forces you to listen to how much the band has “grown” (Radiohead comes to mind as one of the few exceptions). Instead of using their “maturation” as an excuse to write lame ballads about growing up, Blur has stuck with their sense of humor but broadened their horizons to including many different styles of music. From the punk leanings of Chinese Bombs to the Sonic Youth inspired Essex Dogs, Blur has created an amalgam of different sounds with the only constant being Damon’s heavy British accent. The album really lifts off, however, care of Coxom’s guitar work. Riffs such as the ones in “On Your Own”, “Beetlebum”, and the obvious “Song 2” quickly become unforgettable but it’s also the little details that make each song that much better. Many of the songs include subtle guitar work that can only be picked up on repeat listens. In fact, the only real low point of the album is “Theme From Retro” although “Essex Dog” might run a little too long to stay interesting.
Even though they have started to embrace new styles, that doesn’t mean that Blur have left Britpop for good. Most of the songs on this album are tinged with a layer that is famously Britpop. Be it the vocal harmonies of “M.O.R.” or the quirky verses of “Song 2” Blur never seems to loose sight of the sound that got them famous in the first place.
This album displays wonderful versatility from an already wonderful band. Subsequent albums only intensified Blur’s obsession with being different and distant so this was really their last helping of good old fashioned pop, served in such a way as to refresh the listener’s view on what kind of band Blur really was. In other words, this album was the “Death of Blur’s Party” and their last chance to have some fun yelling “Woo Hoo” at the top of their lungs.