Given the fast-changing nature of Britpop in the 1990s, Blur needed to change after The Great Escape did not fare particularly well. Their rivals Oasis also had become the top name in British music at the time, which was difficult for the band to compete with. The result? This album, a self-titled album that is a big improvement for the band, and very listenable and unique, certainly different from what came before. Let’s find out why.
We begin with Beetlebum with its chugging guitar and awesome riff. It’s difficult to tell what this is about but is an enjoyable listen regardless. The chorus here has some wonderful melodies and harmonic singing as well. Very catchy and a great highlight from this album. A great and catchy piece of music, this is really excellent, although quite simple compared to previous Blur efforts. The chanted vocal section in the second half is just brilliant, sounds really fabulous. There are some weird noises in the outro, along with a repeated riff. Great song.
Following is Song 2 which is the most famous Blur song ever, and for very good reason. It’s really awesome from start to finish. From its opening drumbeat to the crashing guitars, Damon Albarn’s ambivalent singing/screaming, this is great for a song that is two minutes long. A fantastic listen, and very memorable and catchy. This deserves repeat listens, just a great tune.
Country Sad Ballad Man is weird. Definitely weird. It is a good song but has a load of different excellent guitars and odd vocals and lyrics, too. This is really a strange sort of listening experience, and although it is a really good listen, it is difficult to think about what its purpose is. Still, nice to hear regardless. In the second section, the riff and singing change at a drop of a hat, and it gives a different sounding piece towards the end of this song. Weird to hear.
M.O.R. comes next. It has an interesting guitar part, to begin with, pounding drums, simple basslines and Damon Albarn’s singing over the top. The song here is quite a lot less quirky than the number before it but is another decent Blur piece. This seems like an arty sort of piece, if anything, but is a good and uplifting listen. A quick tune to hear, the outro is pretty loud.
After that is On Your Own which begins with interesting keyboard and guitar sounds. The latter is electronically cut up and modified for this song. The song itself is pretty catchy and has some very random lyrics to it. The chorus is very excellent, with random lyrics here to enjoy. After the chorus, a catchy drum beat propels this number further. There are some wacky sounds here in the second half of the song. Nice to hear.
Following is Theme From Retro which has a fade-in intro, before some pounding beats and weird organ enter. Cut up delayed vocals are here as well. It sounds like the sort of thing one would listen to whilst travelling in outer space. Not really a song per se, it is more a sonic pastiche. Very different to what the rest of the album before it is. Strange to hear.
You’re So Great is up next. It has detuned acoustic guitars and some decent singing here. It is surprisingly good and is quite an interesting listening experience. The guitar solo here is rather odd, but by this point, is to be expected. Lyrics about drinking tea and coffee to stay awake throughout the day, amongst other oddities, are here. Oddly catchy, this is another good listen from Blur. Interesting.
Death Of A Party comes next. It has muted Fender Telecaster style parts, 1960s style organ and Damon Albarn singing about said party. It is very catchy but is seemingly really distressed and weird to hear. It’s not quite clear what the meaning of this song is, as per usual. There are weird noises and playing throughout, but is a very catchy listen. The drum sounds towards the end are brilliant, sounding a lot like The Chemical Brothers meets Blur.
Following is the very short Chinese Bombs which is a fast and riff-driven piece that sounds weird. It is a rather ordinary song with loads of shouting. Still, it is a short enough piece to listen to regardless.
Next is I’m Just A Killer For Your Love which begins with bass-heavy drum patterns, Grungy guitars and weird arrangements. It is a really odd piece of music that sounds pretty good. More emphasis on sounds rather than the singing here, this is a really arty and weird song. It is difficult to make out what Blur intended with this song, it is definitely strange. It fades out really slowly, with some wah-wah guitar in it.
Look Inside America which is a big improvement on what came before it. It has more unusual acoustic guitars, a string section and Damon Albarn singing in a joyful way. A great piece of music that is a real standout of this album, it sounds as good today as it did in 1997. A great piece of well thought out Pop/Rock music. Some great Harp and more Grungy guitar solos are here towards the end. Brilliant effort.
Strange News From Another Star comes next, with a simple chord progression and cut up pieces of electronic sounds. Shortly into it, acoustic guitar enters and we hear about a fantasy style experience that Damon Albarn is singing about. Another good listen that is very image evoking. A very gentle and reassuring listening experience. Towards the end, a guitar part signals some crazy drumming which is placed perfectly in the mix. Nice way to finish this song.
Following is Movin’ On which begins with noisy guitar sounds and feedback. The guitars that enter are superbly catchy, and this song kicks some you-know-what. An upbeat and fun listen towards the end of this album, and this is really energetic and enjoyable. The chorus here is really excellent. The guitar solo in this is weird and different. Very catchy. The outro is very much like what Jimi Hendrix would do. Great though.
Last is Essex Dogs which begins with some dirty guitars that are given tape trickery. Not long into it, drums enter. This certainly sounds weird, if not innovative. An odd and enjoyable listen, with some spoken word parts that sound really dark. It is questionable whether or not this should have been added to this album, but is interesting and weird regardless. Eventually the spoken word part finishes, and we have an instrumental section with loud guitars and interesting electronic sounds. It is definitely different and is a sonic journey through the fantasy of electronic trickery here. Eventually, this piece goes into a more subtle section reminiscent of Metal music, before ending. After around 10 seconds of silence, a somewhat Psychedelic outro finishes off this song and album. Nice to hear.
This is quite a good album to listen to, even today. It is a strange fusion of different genres of music and sounds very good from start to finish, although admittedly, it is rather patchy in parts. This album is worth it though and is good to hear from time to time. A weird, yet fun recording.
Britpop meets Grunge.