Review Summary: Good compilation.
As it stands – as the second celebratory Blur compilation – Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide To Blur
is simply a more relevant second coming of its predecessor. It serves to accompany the resolution of Blur’s hazy tragedies (mostly involving guitarist Graham Coxon and the six years of rumour that followed his departure during their final effort in studio) and pinpoint a reunion tour scaling the stages of Glastonbury and Hyde Park. Aimed at the lesser educated to Blur’s legacy over Britain, the double-disc gathering seems simply put out there to get even the unknowing up for a 2009 gig sing-along, or even delving into the band’s twelve year lifespan.
It may become a debate as to whether or not a sophomore collection is needed for the Britpop quartet, since the ground covered in the original single disc worked wonders on cramming in a decade of pop. However in a sense Midlife
very much works as an update to the original introduction to the band with Blur: The Best Of
, in that Think Tank
– the album of tension leading to guitarist Coxon waving a spat-fuelled goodbye to Albarn et al – gets the fair inclusion it couldn’t in 2000 due to its non-existence. Blur’s darkest, deepest hour was soaring on this album, and in such “Out Of Time” makes its natural best-of debut. In addition, however, the grouchy “Battery In Your Leg” – Coxon’s last contribution to the band and only
sound on their final album – makes a half-unexpected appearance. Ultimately, the compilation seems more about covering ground than celebrating Blur, and thus really acts as a watered down discography. Even their soundtrack role on 1996’s Trainspotting – the slow burning six minute “Sing” that would otherwise stay forgotten on their debut Leisure
– is in evidence.
Regardless, it’s not hard to hit high points trailing through the band’s material. Pretty much every base is covered: no-brainer appearances are the pop blasts “Song 2” (arguably the Londoners’ biggest moment) and “Girls & Boys”, but not forgotten are the signature moments of oddity, whether weird and playful (“Coffee & TV”) or weird and doomed (“He Thought Of Cars”). The compilation is logical and careful in its classics right down to “Parklife”, where their band makes their mark as the abnormal turn for Britpop Noel Gallagher never wanted to take. Despite choosing to abandon moments that converged both as hit singles and covered career ground – such as the rare pulse of electro in 1997’s near-rapped “On Your Own” – Midlife
seems devised simply to encourage the casual listener into launching a full-grown obsession with the band’s back catalogue. And a yet more user-friendly welcome to Blur is nothing to frown on.