Blur – 13


Do you hear that? You don’t even have to listen that closely. That is the sound of Blur committing commercial suicide. Oh wait, more sound. That is the sound of the Blur-Oasis debate ending permanently. Know you self-righteous indie kid, drop to your knees and praise Blur.
Blur has accomplished a couple of things with their brilliant, probing, pretentious album 13. Blur, first of all, have committed commercial suicide, at least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. This album will (and by now probably has) fail in America. The single Blur released, Tender, is a gospel-like Beatles nod that sounds great, but undoubtedly will fail to catch on. In England, however, Blur will no doubt do well. Their second single, the acoustic-driven, melancholy Coffee and TV, is not only the single of the year, but it has captured the MTV Europe award for best video (MTV makes a good choice- go figure). So this album won’t sell. That should please you indie folks.
Second, Blur has managed to keep progressing after almost 10 years of making music. I can’t honestly say this is Blur’s best work (1994’s Parklife is a Britpop milestone that is nothing short of amazing), but it is their most inventive. The album is fueled by lead singer Damon Albarn’s breakup with a longtime girlfriend. The album shows a necessary amount of dismay. Where Billy Corgan failed in making “arcane night music” with the Pumpkin’s offering Adore, Blur has picked up the slack (note: to clear up any unwanted confusion: Blur do not sound ANYTHING like the Smashing Pumpkins). It took me two or three listens to appreciate this album. Every song is different. Aside from the singles, B.L.U.R.E.M.I. is a ranting little punk stomp, Caramel is a melodic, quiet, mysterious ballad and No Distance Left To Run lyrically puts all the cards on the table (as far as Albarn’s distress is concerned). Although Albarn controls much of the record, Graham Coxom (guitarist, cover artist) instills the record with whirring, blurred, floating guitar lines that are intriguing and difficult to play.
Blur have also killed Oasis (and then just for fun they kicked Oasis in the head a few times- who wouldn’t?). Blur, unlike Oasis, have proved themselves to be a band that progresses, while still making innovative, (dare I say) important music. Blur are perhaps the best playing in England not named Radiohead. 13 is odd, disturbing, and far better when you feel odd and disturbed. So give this record a chance, and, if necessary, a second and third chance. It’s definitely worth it if you consider yourself a fan of distinct, challenging pop music.