They made it to the end: The best of Blur

I was tempted to scan and upload my college paper review of Blur’s The Great Escape, my second favorite album of its year, but I don’t want readers to see how I treated errant semicolons.

I made digs at Pearl Jam because they were unable or uninterested in harpsichords and rhymed “Prozac” and “Balzac.” Like pretending to like Bud Lite, reveling in our inflated sense of cleverness is a sin endemic to the young. Blur, however, allowed me two opportunities for redress: 1997’s eponymous album was a Looney Tunes rendition of Low, a dozen discrete sonic landscapes united by a band substituting an instinct for play for Bowie’s determination to expiate any number of real or imagined sins; and 1999’s 13, released at the height of boy band pop and to my ears a convincing what-if, i.e. “what if Nick Carter and Kevin Richardson hurt?” Yet like “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” and “I Want It That Way” Blur’s tunes earn their tears. I listened to it a lot that summer expiating my own doomed unrequited attraction, and its Fisher Price feedback, leisurely pace, and the pain in Damon Albarn’s vocals meshed with my despair, that June swollen in that post-adolescent manner (I came out that summer).

I should point out that my interest in Blur goes back to 1991’s Leisure, often dismissed as a listless debut a couple years too late to cash in on Madchester. Yet the late nineties were their peak. They capped the decade with an excellent comp that I still don’t own. It’s pointless to compare it to Singles Going Steady when the Bowie of “Move On” and the Ray Davies of “Waterloo Sunset” marked the reach of Albarn’s imagination. For three albums Blur wasted solid hooks on easy targets (and has any band used ampersands in such a slatternly manner?). Americans may be a sincere people in the Wildean definition of the adjective, but the only songs that took before the woo-hoo number were “Girls and Boys” and “There’s No Other Way”: Duran Duran with more swish and less twitch, and “Mysterious Ways” rethought as an Amy Grant production, respectively. They weren’t in love with rock and roll — they preferred the glamour, spelled in the Britishes way, of rock and roll — but music was their radar. Too bad no “Notorious” dwells in their catalog.

1. On Your Own
2. Caramel
3. Coffee & TV
4. There’s No Other Way
5. Yuko & Hiro
6. Girls and Boys
7. Parklife
8. For Tomorrow
9. M.O.R.
10. Popscene
11. The Universal
12. Globe Alone
13. Beetlebum
14. Bugman
15. Tracy Jacks

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