Britpop to Hip Hop: Blur to Gorillaz in 10 Songs

Britpop to Hip Hop: Blur to Gorillaz in 10 Songs

Posted 21 Oct 2020
damon albarn
Damon Albarn. Photo by Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images. 

As we eagerly await the arrival of Gorillaz seventh studio album, Song Machine, Season One: Stange Timez this Friday (Oct 23rd pre-order here), it seems like the perfect time to look back at the astonishing timeline of hits that has led up to this release, from when frontman, Damon Albarn first arrived on the Britpop scene with Blur in the early ’90s, and crossed over into the indie alt-rock of the late ’90s. 

Forever a force of creativity, Albarn returned at the dawn of the millennium with Gorillaz – one of the world’s first “virtual bands,” created in collaboration with renowned artist, Jamie Hewlett. With Gorillaz, Albarn departed from the Britpop bounce of Blur; drawing on everything from hip hop to world music, Latin and dub in a wildly postmodern pastiche that came together in a string of multi-platinum singles.

But, it’s hardly surprising, considering the songwriting wizardry of Albarn that, for three decades and counting, has delivered hit after hit after hit. So, sit back and enjoy the ride from Britpop to hip hop with Blur to Gorillaz in 10 songs below! 

1. Blur | Leisure (1991)

“There’s No Other Way”

Blur’s debut album Leisure arrived in 1991, stacked with singles and introducing the recurring theme of satirising on suburban life. While Albarn doesn’t list the album among the best of his works, lead single, “She’s So High” followed by “There’s No Other Way” and “Bang” is a pretty undeniable entrance by anyone’s standards!  

2. Blur | Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)  

“Chemical World”

For their follow-up release, Blur looked back to their home country icons like the Kinks and The Jam for inspiration, while lyrically continuing to wage war on English suburbia. While it didn’t bring them massive chart success – peaking at 15 in the UK – it did win them the favour of critics for Albarn’s slick lyrical rhetoric. 

3. Blur | Parklife (1994)  

“Girls & Boys”

Parklife arrived one year later and turned critics favour into chart-topping success for the very first time. Home to four massive singles – “Girls & Boys,” “End of a Century,” “Parklife” and “To the End.” Parklife debuted at number one in the UK and remains hailed a Britpop classic. 

4. Blur | The Great Escape (1995)  

“Country House”

With their fourth album, Blur went head to head with Britpop rivals, Oasis, taking out the number one spot on the UK Singles Chart for the very first time with “Country House.” The Great Escape also delivered follow-up hit singles with “The Universal,” “Stereotypes” and “Charmless Man” all reaching the Top 10. But despite the album’s runaway success, along with Leisure, it makes up the two albums Albarn himself doesn’t rate. 

5. Blur | Blur (1997) 

“Song 2”

After conquering Britpop, Blur put emotion at the forefront of the self-titled fifth album, drawing on American indie rock influences like Beck and Pavement at the suggestion of guitarist, Graham Coxon. Albarn’s lyrics drew more from personal experiences rather than the satirical commentary he’d previously relied on. The style change was a gamble, and a massive success with the albums lead single, “Beetlebum” reaching the top of the UK Singles Chart and it’s searing follow-up, “Song 2” bringing the band the US success that had alluded them to that point. 

6. Blur | 13 (1999)  

“Tender”

With 13 the band turned deeper into their experimental and psychedelic side. Brent DiCrescenzo of Pitchfork said in a review, “Blur have finally found a sound to match their name.”

7. Blur | Think Tank (2003)  

“Out of Time”

Think Tank continued the jam-based songwriting approach of 13 and introduced sampled rhythm loops and brooding electronica into the mix. But Albarn's expanding interest in hip hop, dub and world music was already beginning to shine through in his expanding side project… 

8. Gorillaz |  Gorillaz  (2001)  

“Clint Eastwood”

Albarn first met comic book creator, Jamie Hewlett in 1990 when Coxon asked him to interview the band. Despite not really getting along initially, they somehow ended up sharing an apartment together. One night, while watching MTV, the pair came up with the idea to create Gorillaz as a playful comment on the artificiality of pop music – and smashed it out of the park with their debut single “Clint Eastwood.”

9. Gorillaz |  Demon Days (2005)  

“Feel Good Inc.”

Follow-up, Demon Days was a genre-bending hit machine! Delivering a streak of hit singles – “Feel Good Inc.” “Dare,” “Dirty Harry,” “Kids with Guns,” and “El Maana.” Stacked with A-list guests the album is certified 6x Platinum in the UK. 

10. Gorillaz | Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (2020) 

“Strange Timez” ft. Robert Smith 

Celebrating 20 years as a band, 2020 has seen Gorillaz drop a steady stream of singles sporadically throughout the year. Each single has arrived as “Episodes” consisting of a collection of singles and music video, audio outtakes and remixes, each featuring a different high-profile guest artist, across generations and genres – everyone from Elton John to St Vincent have joined the party! The album’s title track, featuring The Cure’s Robert Smith as the man in the moon couldn’t sum up these strange times any better. 

Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez arrives on various formats this Friday, October 23rd. There’s a stack of awesome bundles options, including vinyl, CD, cassette, art prints, T-shirts and much more available to pre-order, now.  

Pre-order Song Machine: Season One – Strange Timez, here.

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