What was it that made Blur such an endearing band through the early to late 90s?
Was it just the release of "Song 2" that cemented them into the hearts and minds of people following the decline of the grunge sound that radio programmers fell over each other to embrace? They were much more than one song, but unless you were watching closely, perhaps that’s all you got out of them.
Their story starts way back in 1988, as 'Seymour’. They were noticed and courted by a record label, who didn’t care much for the name, and in 1990, they settled on Blur and signed to Food Records.
OK, that’s enough history as far as the inception and incubation of Blur goes - let’s focus on the music and how their influence on Britpop played out.
She’s So High (1990)
The very first single release by Blur, and it’s a shoegazing classic set with echoed vocals, fuzzy riffs and dreamy choruses. Indie stoner psychedelic rock 101 type stuff. This would garner enough interest to send it to number 48 on the UK charts, whilst not making a dent anywhere else. But they were on their way.
There’s No Other Way (1991)
Kurt Cobain once remarked that this was his favourite British song of 1991. Pretty specific, sure, but this catchy tune feels both laid back and upbeat at the same time. An emotional twist that Blur was able to achieve better than others. Like they almost can’t be bothered, but their apathy is addictive. Dunno how they did it, but that’s the genius of Blur.
An absolute turning point in the Blur sound. This high tempo raucous foot stomper was a clue to what would come later. No longer lackadaisical in style, Blur were into making big noise with clearer vocal tracking and energy that would be the beginning of the Britpop years. This is a great tune.
Girls and Boys (1994)
After some lackluster album sales, being homesick, and jealous of Britpop band, Suede, and their success, Blur (most notably Albarn) decided to increasingly write songs that reminded him of England and painted an English vibe, away from what was happening with bands like Nirvana. "Girls and Boys" was pseudo disco, and the album, Parklife, has been declared as one of the most defining Britpop albums. It was around this time they went from being weirdly indie, to a genuine pop sensation.
Country House (1995)
The great Britpop heavyweight battle song! This was written about David Balfe, the owner of Food Records, Blur’s record label, after he had sold it off and chucked it in to move to the country because he was ‘burned out’. How it became the heavyweight battle was due to rising tensions between Blur, and massively successful Manchester lads, Oasis. The record company decided to change the release date of "Country House" to be the same as Oasis’ "Roll With It" to see who would truly be crowned the kings. After a week of release, it ended with victory to Blur and their first number 1 song.
Blur’s 1995 album, The Great Escape was declared a masterpiece and the best Britpop album of that year. Funny and sometimes twisted lyrics, intertwined with super catchy melodies are what endeared to fans and radio programmers alike. It debuted at number 1, selling over half a million copies in its first month. However, this praise was short lived. Oasis’ album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? went quadruple platinum and Blur found themselves out of favour with the media. They had won the battle, but lost the war.
By mid-1996 the band were "sewn together very awkwardly" according to one biographer. With guitarist Graham Coxon wanting to push the band to "make music that scares people again". Albarn saw the merit in what he was saying and in what he was listening to, and relented the internal struggles to produce their self-titled album and release it in 1997. It was yet another reinvention after the Britpop vibe had petered out, and it produced their most well-known worldwide song, the second song on the album, that only reached number 2 on the charts and went for just two minutes.
Song 2 (1997)
Blur further moved away from the Britpop era and attitude with their later releases, however, there’s no denying their importance and influence on the world of music at the time, along with Oasis, Suede and Pulp. Arguably the big 4 of the Britpop movement that was inclusive of fashion, music and art.
Blur release The Best Of Blur on vinyl this Friday 12th October, get it from the official store, here.
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