* denotes released single

Aug '91



Often remembered as a false start before Blur's eventual ascension to the position of Britpop spokesmen, 1991's Leisure belongs to a very different age. Much of it is fairly lightweight: a naive dance-rock hybrid, and not a million miles away from EMF. Leisure certainly has its moments, though, and when they come, they're quietly stunning: "Sing" (later revived for the Trainspotting soundtrack) is a crystalline clatter, guided through huge psychedelic rain clouds by Alex James' wandering bass; even today, it sounds one of Blur's most beautiful moments. "There's No Other Way" is equally deserving of note; powered by a titanic baggy beat, it stands as one of the greatest indie disco floor-fillers of the 1990s. Despite its faults, Leisure is an occasionally great album; it's questionable, though, that many of Blur's "Song 2" converts would even recognise it as the same band. --Louis Pattison
Modern Life Is Rubbish
May '93

Blur's second album saw them finding their feet just before they suddenly went supernova. In songs like "Chemical World", they started developing the themes of everyday British life that would follow them to their Parklife era. "Sunday Sunday" provided its own blueprint for the Britpop scene, showing the traditional Sunday dinner with the family for what it really is ("You gather the family round the table and eat enough to sleep"), while "Advert" follows in the spirit of Blur's musical ancestors (art school punks and mods). "Blue Jeans", meanwhile, demonstrates that Damon Albarn has always had a talent for writing delicate, sad ballads. Modern Life Is Rubbish deserves to be heard, not only to show how much Blur changed over the years, but because it still stands up and holds its own against anything they came up with later in their career. --Emma Johnston
April '94


Although Blur had long been recognised as one of the premier bands responsible for the reinvigoration of Britpop in the 1990s, it's 1994's Parklife that truly provided the template for the entire movement. At a time when Oasis were aping the sounds of their pub-rock heroes on Definitely Maybe, Blur drew from the legacy of the Kinks and Small Faces to create an album that's as English as a rainy Sunday in front of the gas fire. Parklife is full of songs that, quite frankly, don't make much sense outside of the British Isles, songs that find joy in the mundane, like "Girls & Boys" (a song about working-class holidaymakers in the sun) and "Parklife" (a day in the life of a cheeky, unemployed bench-sitter). Witty, ironic and irreverent, Parklife remains one of those rare albums that sum up a specific place and time (Britain in the mid-1990s). For that reason alone, it can be considered one of Blur's finest albums. -- Robert Burrow
The Great Escape
Sept '95

Perhaps when they made this album, it wasn't what Blur's collective hearts were in. They didn't want to make another album of joyous Mockney Britpop for the masses, they were becoming frustrated with their commercial image, hated the feuding with Oasis, and were keen to explore the kind of US rock that has inspired their later albums. This perhaps is why this album sounds relatively uninspiring when compared to otehr classic guitar albums of the era, such as Different Class and The Bends. \par Mockery of the public image of corporate life rather dominates the show, with It Could Be You laying into the Lottery and Ernold Same, Country House and Fade Away into those dull middle class Home Counties businessman types, precisely the type of culture they went into music to avoid. The melodies don't flow as fast as on Parklife, and Damon almost sounds bored. I wouldn't bother with this unless you're a completist, although tracks like Stereotypes, Best Days and He Thought Of Cars are pretty respectable.
Feb '97


Having found himself at a creative cul-de-sac with 1995's The Great Escape Damon Albarn bought a flat in Iceland and set about re-evaluating his role in Blur. What emerged was a more soulful, democratised sound. Gone were the Kinks-influenced vignettes about life in suburban England, to be replaced by a more cathartic approach. Grunge influences, for so long off-limits, were now detectable in the loose, angularity of tracks like "Country Sad Ballad Man" and "Song 2". Sensing that this might just be his moment, Blur's resident hard-core fan Graham Coxon is the driving momentum behind much of the band's fifth album. And yet, accidentally or not, some sense of Englishness lingers--be it the Specials "Ghost Town" on "Theme from Retro", early David Bowie on the desolate "Strange News from Another Star" or the Beatles on "Beetlebum". Ambitious it might have been, but the sheer quality of these songs made Blur their biggest seller to date. This truly is the great escape. -- Peter Paphides
Mar '99

It all begins with a music box noise, not entirely unlike the beginning of Trumpton (you know, the kids programme with the firemen and Windy Miller). Welcome to yet another new identity for Blur. Gone are the charicatures of bed-and-breakfast owners and bankers, the cockernee knees-ups, football and pubs laddisms. 13 is the starkest, most personal Blur album ever, going further in the direction the previous self-titled album hinted at. Dealing, for the most part, with frontman Damon Albarn's broken relationship with Elastica's Justine Frischmann, it's as if Blur have ripped their heart out and left the bloody mess for all to see. "Tender", with its repetitive cycle of a tune and gorgeous gospel choir, must surely remind you of someone special, while "No Distance Left To Run" is pure, unashamed heartbeak. Relief comes in the form of the sweet, Graham Coxon-penned "Coffee And TV" and "B.L.U.R.E.M.I", which recalls their punkier days. Oh, and "Bugman" appears to have utilised the previously untapped musical properties of a vacuum cleaner. "Country House", this is not. --Emma Johnston
Blur:The Best Of
Oct '00

Scanning the tracklisting of Blur's greatest hits album it's hard not to reach the conclusion that the band are a little embarrassed by their earlier and even mid-career work. Opening with the chart one-two of "Beetlebum" and "Song 2" (from their eponymous creative watershed album of 1997) rather than the baggy groove of debut single "She's So High", the band's desire to accentuate their more recent efforts is obvious. Running order aside, it's hard to fault the 18 tracks which chart the life and times of one of the country's smartest, most inventive bands. From the tuxedoed ballad "The Universal", through cartoon Britpoppery of numbers like "Parklife" and "Country House" to the freshly recorded indie-isms of single "Music Is My Radar", their searching intelligence, deft hooks and willingness to sweep the board are never less than admirable. --Mike Pattenden
Think Tank
Think Tank was an emotional experience for Blur, with reports of problems--not least the exit of founding member Graham Coxon half way through recording. With that in mind you might expect the end product to be a mess. In the event, although Think Tank , like its predecessor, is a hotchpotch of ideas, it is a cohesive album. After the brash pop of Damon Albarn's Gorillaz side-project and the overtly emotional 13 this is a soulful and subtle affair. There are a couple of classic Blur rock moments here: "Crazy Beat" is cut from the same cloth as the pogo-ing classic "Song 2", while the painfully short but brilliant "We've Got a File on You" sounds like agitprop punkers Crass in a fight with a Moroccan snake charmer. But while Damon Albarn still has an ear for a melody, Blur sound like a different band without Coxon's guitars to subvert them. Morocco and Damon's Mali Music have changed Blur. "Caravan" uses a sleepy rhythm that plods at a camel's pace, while "Gene by Gene" employs cross rhythms evoking images of the desert and sound textures from unorthodox sources. Blur are now using sounds to create their music rather than the standard rock line up. For some fans it may be one evolution too far, but for fans who appreciate them as they are--a band that refuses to stay still--Think Tank should be an interesting listen. --Caroline Butler

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