No, I'm not posting the video for a dance hall classic. The title actually refers to the length of this post. I'm in an obsessive mood, so settle in for some rhapsodical waxing.
You know those artists who sort of lie at the outskirts of your musical mind? The ones you're vaguely aware of and seem to enjoy whenever you hear one of their songs, but some unknown force (e.g., laziness, forgetfulness, lack of resources) always keeps you from finding out more about them? Usually, there is some point when you finally decide that you ARE going to investigate, and one of three things happens: (1) You decide they suck and it wasn't worth the effort, (2) You discover a few more good songs for your collection, or (3) You fall completely in love and curse yourself and those unknown forces for cheating you out of that music for so long.
I've recently gone all #3 over Blur.
Blur were probably the most overtly British of all. Streams of British slang flowed from the cockney mouth of lead singer Damon Albarn, who complained about the Americanization of England ("Parklife") and satirized the "Girls Gone Wild" party-centric culture of the '90s to a Eurotrashy disco beat ("Girls & Boys"). I recently read that, after being torn apart and shunned on one of their early American tours, Albarn returned to England with the intention of "destroying grunge." I should probably hate him for that, but I can't, for two good reasons: (1) He's brilliant, and (2) He's one of the most beautiful men I've ever seen. (Hey, this is all about the music, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the superficial cherry on top.)
My rediscovery of Blur started a couple of months ago, when their video for "Country House" popped up on VH1 Classic's 120 Minutes. That song was one in a small handful of Blur songs that I knew, but I hadn't heard it in years (probably since it was first released in 1995), and I'd never seen the video. The song was at the heart of the "Battle of Britpop," the infamous UK chart battle between Blur and Oasis that even most Yanks knew about. Apparently, the song was ready to go weeks before but Albarn (supposedly at the suggestion of NME) moved the release date back to coincide with Oasis's release of "Roll With It." When "Country House" outsold the Oasis single, Blur won the battle but Oasis ultimately won the war by becoming an international sensation. (Though Blur would never find success in the U.S., Albarn finally broke through on his own, as the creator and only full-time member of animated hip-hop band Gorillaz.)
The video got me to thinking about this whole "battle" nonsense (after rekindling my old crush on Damon, who appears in the bathtub in that vid) and how, even though I liked Oasis, I much preferred the few Blur songs I knew to anything in Oasis's catalog. It was then that I stopped being lazy and finally delivered on my recurring promise to myself to find out more about Blur. Of course, it's much easier now than it was back in the '90s. If I haven't said it on this blog enough, YOUTUBE IS THE GREATEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO THE WORLD.
So, all of this babbling brings me to the first forgotten classic this week - one of those few songs of Blur's that I actually DID know (and probably my favorite) before fully immersing myself in discovery and obsession - "Charmless Man." Like "Country House," it was a song that I remember hearing and liking back in the day (both singles were from 1995's The Great Escape), but lack of any radio or MTV play caused it to be purged from my memory. Also like "Country House," I don't remember ever having seen the video, but it's a good one. It actually reminds me a bit of that Twilight Zone episode, "The Hitch-Hiker," in that the lead character can't seem to shake the unwanted person(s) on their trail. Of course, if Damon Albarn was following me around all day, showing up in my bathroom and breathing down my neck, I would certainly not be unhappy.
And now, to help you all along on your own path to discovering Blur, I'd like to give you a little video primer: one gem from each of their other studio albums. (You can also click the links throughout this post to see some of the ones I didn't embed.)
"Bang," from Leisure (1991)
Ahhhh, young Damon. This is actually kind of a dumb song (and apparently the band hates it), but the title gives me impure thoughts.
"Chemical World," from Modern Life is Rubbish (1993)
"To The End," from Parklife (1994)
Kind of a weird vid, meant to be an homage to some obscure French film. But Damon looks delicious as always. And the song...oh, the song just makes me want to cry. It's so sadly beautiful.
"Beetlebum," from Blur (1997)
Even though this record's "Song 2" was Blur's only true hit in the U.S., I think this song is so much better. I can't figure out why American radio wouldn't have embraced it, especially since we were all falling in love with Radiohead around that time and this has a bit of their vibe.
"Coffee and TV," from 13 (1999)
BEST.VIDEO.EVER! Well, okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But Milky is the cutest thing I've seen in quite a while. (Note: Guitarist Graham Coxon sings lead on this one.) And what a wonderful melody.
"Out of Time," from Think Tank (2003)
Just a gorgeous song. The video is actually a live performance from Last Call with Carson Daly. I guess all that time I spent making fun of Carson Daly's show, I should have been watching it, eh? The official video doesn't feature the band, but centers on a female maintenance technician on an aircraft carrier.
Blur never officially broke up, but after Graham Coxon left in 2003, they refused to replace him and stopped making records. They reunited this year and played several gigs in the UK. Although Albarn has claimed that they wouldn't do any more shows, Coxon recently reported that they are talking about not only touring more, but also about recording some new music. I hope this is all true, and that a "tour" includes North America! I'm so angry that I missed out on Blur the first time around, and I would love a chance to see them live.
I hope you've enjoyed this blurry trip through musical history today! If I've made even one of you appreciate this incredible band, then my job is done.
Oh, and if anyone has Damon Albarn's phone number, please email me. Yes, he's missing a front tooth these days (and wears a goofy gold-plated one) but he is still hotter than most men with all 32.
Now, to close this post properly, here is a bonus vid for the song "This is a Low," a Parklife track that was never released as a single, but one that is rightfully a fan and band favorite, and one that they have often used to close their shows. It's a gorgeous, haunting song inspired by the Shipping Forecast, of all (British) things. But I think it's really about loneliness. Whatever it's about, it makes lovely Damon a wee bit emotional, as evidenced by that single tear at the end.