OTR: Blur - The Best of

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10 jan. 2010, 23h08m

Before Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad & the Queen (and a couple of other endevours), Blur was Damon Albarn's primary project. On the cover of The Best Of you can see him in cartoon form in the lower left-hand corner. Guitarist Graham Coxon is in the upper left-hand corner, bassist Alex James takes the upper right and drummer Dave Rowntree is the man in the lower right-hand corner. I actually find the cartoon cover amusing, not merely because the first Gorillaz album wouldn't be released until the following year (The Best of Blur came out in late November of 2000) but because somehow the image of Blur as a cartoon just seems to match their sound.

I just recently purchased this compilation, burning up a couple of amazon.com gift cards that I'd received over the holidays. It had been residing on my wish list for years and since it had been ages since I'd heard anything by Blur, I decided to finally add one of their albums to my collection. When it comes to delving into a band's discography, a good compilation is generally the way to go. While this disc isn't chronologically sequenced, disallowing a quick overview of the band's evolution, it does provide one with a good - and at 18 tracks, generous - overview of what Blur is all about.

Opening with the nice little slice of Britpop that is "Beetlebum," track two is the high-octane, blink and you'll miss it "Song 2." The song is as generic as it's title, a send up of Nirvana or the Pixies - there is some disagreement in that regard. Personally, I listen to it and hear the Pixies, but as it was originally released in 1997, it's more likely a send-up of Nirvana. Either way, the track was written to be ironic and worked like a charm, unseating "Girls and Boys" as Blur's biggest hit in the United States. Spreading the gooey irony even thicker, the band licensed the hell out of the song, making it inescapable for years to come. I should hate it, and yet...it's just such a well-done little pop song and at two minutes, it doesn't stick around long enough to become an annoyance.

"Tender" was the first single from 13 and my initial introduction to Blur outside of "Song 2" through the wonderful world of college radio, naturally. While "Tender" is a nice song, akin to a relaxed Sunday drive through the country on a warm day in the waning of the summer before the chill of autumn hits the air, I still have a greater fondness for the follow-up single, "Coffee And TV." I can put it no other way: "Coffee and TV" is cute, and the music video, featuring a travelling carton of milk only makes it that much cuter.

My favourite Blur song remains "Girls and Boys," however. With its bouncy quasi-disco sound and wordplay of the title in the chorus, it is simply irresistible. That beat was only reinforced by the Pet Shop Boys remix of the song with takes the cute original and makes it anthematic. Celebrating safer sex? Sure, why wouldn't you?

This compilation ends with two new songs, the final cut, "Music Is My Radar" being the one chosen as the single. Personally, I was never all impressed with this song and feel it a weak ending to an otherwise suburb set. I wonder if the band felt the same way, as it is the only track that is lacking in printed lyrics in the CD booklet.

Blur never officially disbanded, though Graham Coxon did leave the band in 2003 over disagreements with Damon Albarn over the recording of the group's final album to date: Think Tank. Like The Catherine Wheel, Blur seems to have concluded - for all intents and purposes - on a low note. More's the pity, but Albarn, with his legion of "side" projects certainly isn't hurting.

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