Blur vs Oasis in the 1990s. It is seemingly now a distant memory. But both bands made excellent tunes. Blur had a talented group of young men, with personalities such as singer Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon. This album is proof of this and is the best Blur album to date and helped kickstart the Britpop revolution. There are quite a few great songs to get your teeth stuck into. Without further hesitation, let’s do that.
The album begins with Girls & Boys, a cheesy song about the myth of sexuality, or so it seems. It begins with a very psychedelic keyboard patch, before the rest of the group quickly join in. The bass guitar here is very prominent. Some socially conscious lyrics are here. It is extremely catchy and definitely worth hearing. The chorus is very singalong and catchy. In retrospect, it is easy to see why Oasis and Blur had a major feud, they were obviously unfriendly competitors. Regardless, this is a classic song and is well arranged, played and constructed. Very upbeat and great listening from Blur, a real winner of a track. Excellent start to this amazing album. Very Poppy and listenable.
Tracy Jacks follows which tells the bizarre tale of a civil servant who doesn’t like doing the ordinary sorts of things that other ordinary people do. It is a great song and once again, is very catchy. It is a suburban tale of chaotic deeds and the like, it is worth hearing for the lyrics alone. The song is also sonically wonderful, with clanging Fender Telecasters, Pop harmonies and other beautiful elements shifting in and out of the song. A brilliant piece, very witty and clever to hear. A cool listen from Blur, great to hear. The outro has some eerie strings in it.
To showcase the times, End Of A Century shows a typical night in a British family at the turn of the 20th century into the 21st century. It begins with clean guitar parts and a keyboard, before going into strummed acoustic guitars and Damon Albarn’s cynical viewpoint of the end of the 20th century. It is an interesting song and talks openly about sex and sexual based endeavors. There is a trumpet solo in here as well, as well as a witty and dirty climax. Brilliant and a good song as well. A decent song, and very listenable.
Parklife was the group’s biggest hit off the record and has spoken word verses from Phil Daniels describing a daily life sort of schedule which is amusing and witty. It went high into the pop charts upon release as a single. It begins with a catchy guitar riff and various different sampled sound effects. Some interesting and contradictory lyrics are here, covering a broad array of topics here. Simple, catchy and excellent listening, this is a cool tune. A singalong and Pop/Rock classic, this is a highlight of Blur’s career. You can easily hear why, it is wonderfully performed and delivered. Great song.
For a short and quick song, Bank Holiday is a good break from a typical song structure of the regular album cycle you’d come to expect. A loud Fender Telecaster style sound makes this track almost punk-like in its orientation, which is different. A good song that is fun listening, even if this song is seemingly throwaway. Nice for a change though, well played and performed, this is not a bad pseudo-Punk tune. Fast and furious.
Badhead refers to distressed emotions that one experiences in the break up of a relationship. The intro sounds like Sgt. Pepper has been reincarnated on this album. It has a brass section added to it and a fairly blunt chorus: “I might as well just grin and bear it because it’s not worth the trouble of an argument. And in any case I’d rather wear it, it’s like a bad head in the morning.” The whole song is very much akin to the Kinks, creating a light Pop/Rock piece with very dark lyrics. Catchy and memorable, this is a great song, especially if you are feeling a bit off. There is a simple guitar solo, no shred here, just beautiful melody about it. A great song, especially on a bad day. Another classic Blur song, this is brilliant.
The Debt Collector is an instrumental keyboard piece which is a quirky and arty addition to the record. A counted intro begins this short and bittersweet instrumental. It does sound really quite good, even for a piece of its kind. There are organs, acoustic guitar, tambourine, flute and trumpets. Is this the 1990s answer to Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper? Could well be, you be the judge on this one. A nice little piece of entertaining music all the same.
The next song, Far Out, is what you’d expect from the title of the song. Alex James sings this one and it has some trippy sound effects and great instrumentation here. Alex James proves himself to be more than competent on a trippy piece that fans of Syd Barrett and Britpop would dig. Short, yet very very good. Nice piece of music.
To The End shows cynicism once again from Damon Albarn, and reveals the direct impact of a relationship breakup. Regardless of the somewhat upbeat instrumentation, it’s not cheerful at all. Only really recommended listening if you are in a regular mood. Despite that, it is a very good song. There is a melancholy string section and French spoken lyrics by a female voice here, adding to the ambience here. The chorus here is a climax of beauty, heartbreak and disappointment. There comes times in our lives that we all experience this sort of thing, and this is perfect for that moment. Another great song by Blur, this whole thing is great but very sad.
London Loves is an underrated and catchy piece of work. With an awesome guitar riff and giving the song enough space to thrive, it does well. It has many dark lyrics in it, but enjoy listening to this one, it’s awesome. It begins with a keyboard and said guitar riff, before going into a very good and upbeat song that is great to hear. This song, and album are designed to be played in the car on the way to work each day, and it sounds really nice. There is a discordant guitar solo which adds chaos to the mix, a very bizarre yet great touch. Alternating pun style lyrics are here throughout. The outro is quite awesome too, with some sampled radio chatter of traffic conditions. Brilliant, and catchy, too.
The next song is a quirky tale. Trouble In The Message Centre is about somebody who has a drivel job. It is definitely an oddity of a song here, with some minor key melodies to boot. An interesting song about a workplace with consequences, this is really a strange piece of music. It is very much a dystopian sort of musical journey on this song. The second half has some good sounds that evoke a feeling of disappointment. Great, but a rather bitter statement. The harmonies at the end are very memorable.
A warning comes against the touchy issue of suicide in the form of Clover Over Dover. It begins with the sound of seagulls and harpsichord which drives this song along. A very catchy piece, but very, very dark. It is probably for the best you do not play this to young ones, it is very disturbing listening. A good song, but best to hear it when in a mood where you are not heavily depressed. A worth addition to this album regardless. It ends with water sounds rushing.
Magic America is sarcasm galore in its approach. It tells the comical tale of Bill Barrett who has a Plan B to go on a spending spree holiday in the U.S.A. It begins with some quirky digital sounds, before loud Fender Telecaster parts and Damon Albarn emerges singing. It’s an interesting story for its kind, and just sounds really clever. The song here is really interesting listening and is quite anti-American. Somewhat like Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. adopted for British tastes, it is a quirky and cynical tale. The outro here is pretty nice, and is quite interesting to hear.
Jubilee tells the joking story of someone who everybody loves to hate. The character itself is a lazy, good for nothing teenager who sits at home all day, wasting time away. It is a funny story that has many interesting elements in it, both lyrically and musically. A very good song that makes sense to those who dislike lazy people who do nothing in their lives. The chorus is very catchy, with saxophone and loud guitars. Blur are top here on songs such as these, and this is really great to hear. It segues into the next song.
The following song, This Is A Low is quite good, although rather lengthy. It is a more subdued piece with more dark emotions within, both lyrically and musically. It is a great piece of music for those who get down in life, which is becoming more frequently in this world today. Regardless, this is a decent song that sounds very good all the same and is very well constructed for a Blur song. The guitar work in particular is really interesting here, and sounds somewhat akin to Radiohead. Still, a wonderful listen for those dark times when you need it. A long and weird outro finishes this song off.
Lastly is Lot 105 to finish off this great album. It is a throwaway piece of music for this album, but still enjoyable and entertaining nonetheless. It has a fairground style organ throughout, along with some odd guitar parts to match. It goes into a frenzied section of musical madness before finishing. Nice.
This album, along with other albums of the time, such as Oasis’s Definitely Maybe and Suede’s self-titled album, kick-started the Britpop movement of the 1990s. The songs on this album are really very good. Give this album a listen, you won’t be disappointed. Fans of Blur will be pleased to know that there are re-releases with many extra tracks on this album, so seek that out if you wish.