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- Blur »
TV sessions are strange things; the attempted illusion of a real ‘performance’ whilst the band are inhibited by cameras, cues and pre-arranged cat calls.
However, thanks to one A. James being a bit tardy with a VISA application and failing to make the trip to last month’s SXSW do in America, today offers the first opportunity to see the ‘new’ * Blur* set up in all its glory. And how strange it is. For this ‘special’ CD:UK performance of eight songs old and new, Blur saunter in, both short a member and more than twice the size of their original casting. Accompanying Damon, Dave and Alex are touring guitarist Simon Tong, formerly of * The Verve*, a keyboardist, percussionist and three backing singers. First impressions are that it seems like a bloated, rather sad latter day version of a once important and vital guitar band. Blur have gone muso.
The mongoloid jazz musings of an unrecognised, unannounced song (I can’t remember a thing about it, although it was possibly ‘_ Gene By Gene’) kicked off proceedings and offered an Albarn vocal very much akin to the croaked, lethargic efforts of their last album _‘13’. Heads are scratched all round, and some offer the opinion that perhaps that was their warm-up jam. No luck. Single ‘Out Of Time’ drew nods of recognition, but it gives the nagging impression that however nice a tune it is, it’s a barely-finished, ‘will-this-do?’, offering compared to previous Blur ballads ala ‘This Is A Low’. ‘Crazy Beat’ is a joyless mess of a dance-pop abortion, sounding for all the world like it was concocted out of necessity, rather than a desire to create something upbeat and fun. Especially as Damon doesn’t run about these days. No, too mature for that; preferring to stand stock still, both dour in a black suit jacket and unwittingly comical with an oversized gold chain draped around his neck.
Alex James, whose humourless posture seemed to replace louche with slouch, mirrored his indolence. Perhaps it was because it was a TV recording, or maybe Blur really has become an unpleasant contractual chore, to be borne out until its meek death. It was all rather bewildering. ‘Brothers And Sisters’ with its preposterous lyrics was thrown to the barely reacting, docile crowd, who by now were waiting for a recognisable hint of Blur. It came, barely, with ‘Trimm Tab_’, another colourless effort from ‘13’ and much more so with an almost sparkling rendition of ‘Badhead’ from ‘Parklife’. The way that the now-ungainly Blur beast then attacked ‘Beetlebum’ with such gusto was an almost criminal giveaway of the failings of the new material to hold even their attention.
And then it was over. Perhaps the new songs will grow, given a few album playbacks, maybe it’s unfair to judge a band who have barely performed in four years on their efforts in a TV studio. Maybe they won't: maybe it’s not. The most saddening thing to see though is how a band who seemed to take such pleasure in both the art of song and performance has appeared to abandon that in the name of mirthless experimentation and perfunctory obligation.
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