Tomorrow marks the twenty year anniversary of Blurs self titled album…’Blur‘, and what a twenty years it’s been, as the band have gone from releasing ‘Song 2‘, which I argue is one of the greatest and most recognisable guitar tracks of the modern era (IMO), to bass guitarist Alex James creating his own artisan cheese company, which is testament to how the band have “matured”…. get it?
‘Blur‘ is their fifth studio album and by this point they’ve marked their stamp on the nineties music world and led the Brit pop movement after ‘Parklife‘ had enjoyed massive success, and it still remains a classic today. Unexpectedly, what was to follow their Brit Pop win over Oasis, was a bit of period where most their released tracks were a little cartoony, and Blur became a parody more than a social commentary on modern life. Tensions were frayed within the band and the media was turning its back on them too and were reminded now that it wasn’t always cool to like Blur as their edge began to dwindle, but with their change of sound on their self titled return album, people soon discovered how diverse they could be and how serious they actually were as musicians, and with songs such as ‘Beetlebum‘ and ‘On Your Own‘ they reminded the world that they were much more than the dance hall, Saturday pool hall anthems they’d been releasing.
Now, you can’t talk about this album without mentioning the iconic status of ‘Song 2‘ as it immediately became a household name, and the riff is known internationally, featuring on adverts, computer games and movies ever since. Whether you hear it in a pub, in the club or on the radio you HAVE to give it the obligatory “WOOOOOHOO” in response, it’s basically a law, did you know that? It reached number 2 in the U.K. singles chart and was nominated for several awards at the time including best group video and best British single. Why is it called ‘Song 2‘ I hear you ask, well it was nicknamed song 2 as a working title… just stuck really. Standard.
‘Beetlebum‘ stands as the real classic from the album, and appears timeless when played now. Possibly one of their finest tracks that can’t be pinned down to genre or era, just a perfect track. When the song begins with that intro, its unmistakable and exciting. ‘On Your Own‘ is an electronic, experimental entity that vocally throws back to the beginnings of the UK indie beginnings but with those odd tweaks over the top. It was also the first time we’d hear main vocals by Graham Coxon too, on ‘You’re So Great‘. But there the big ones, the rest of the album holds a lot of esteem also, and the record appears to be their most experimental, even powering the light bulb in your head that this was the birth of Gorillaz, with minimalist, hip hop-rock cross overs like ‘I’m Just a Killer for your Love‘. Albarn and the gang certainly seems to be doing something new with this one, and it’s perhaps symbolic That their fifth studio record was to be their self titled masterpiece. A restart, refresh and redesign of sorts. Seemed to work too despite record labels showing concern of alienating the fans they’d managed to drum up so far, but after Graham Coxon urged the band into this style alteration, the album and it’s adjoining single releases would all see commercial success and the album went platinum.
It just goes to show, a change is as good as a rest and there’s nothing wrong with pushing your own boundaries. Twenty years on, Blur are of legendary status and Albarn and Coxon have all but received genius status in the industry. Not bad eh?
Words by Alice Whitton (@AliceWhitton1)