The return of Blur sent the DiS team into a tizzy. To celebrate, we've attempted to compile a "definitive list" of their best songs.
Wait! What?! Blur are back??? Yes, if you didn't catch wind of their big announcement earlier, they play Hyde Park on Saturday 20th June 2015 (more info). Plus you should probably mark 27th April 2015 in your diary, as that day will see the release of a brand new album from Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave. The album is entitled The Magic Whip, and you can hear 'Go Out' from it on our YouTube playlist below...
DiS' Favourite Blur Tracks
21) Go Out
Marc Burrows: Of all the eras of Blur to return to, you'd not expect The Great Escape to be their go-to for a new single, yet that's exactly the era of the band most heavily invoked here. The "oh-oh-ohs" and Coxon's blazing anti-solos and dischord is all from that era. Albarn is back to sketching characters too- this is the Hong Kong of "too many western men, top button left undone," it's fizzy and brilliant and completely unexpected, and totally, uniquely Blur. An exhilarating return.
Sean Adams: Expect this to rocket up the list after we've heard it more than three times.
20) The Universal
Russell Warfield: It isn't easy to think of many stadium-sized stunners which so effectively mix a deep sadness with such uplifting triumph. Its trick is in the ambiguity of its chorus. Is it the empty promise of universal fulfilment? Or the genuinely hopeful possibility of a better life? Coupled with THAT flourish of horns and strings, and you've got a rare example of a song that's used for every single sports montage, fireworks display, Glasto preview, utilities advert and charity appeal you've ever seen in your entire fucking life because it really, really, really is that good.
Sean Adams: The problem with Blur is that this might be their best song, but it's such a part of our national DNA, that it's hard to ever really hear it without a montage of the detritus of almost two decades of popular culture and personal memories flashing across your mind's eye. It's a beautiful song, and perhaps makes a mockery of the ordering of this list.
19) Death Of A Party
Russell Warfield: The 1997 self-titled album was where Blur left behind peculiarly British insecurities, and started exploring more general themes of displacement. There's an unbearably understated melancholy to this record, unchecked by the satire of their earlier records, and without the emotional bombast of stuff to come like Tender. The sad, sloping Death Of A Party is their best example of this oddly disassociated mood, which they never properly revisited.
18) Dan Abnormal
Christopher McBride: Not because it's their best song, (or even the best song on The Great Escape), but because a few years ago it inspired my to write a webcomic about a Britpop/indie loving alien of the same name, who gets up to all kinds of hijinks. Well, I say inspired, because it never left the annals of my mind because a) I can't draw, and b) It was a terrible, terrible idea.
Jon Falcone: I joined the hoi-polloi at the expected Blur Vs Oasis media frenzy point, loving The Great Escape and obviously the singles from Parklife. To then be able to go back and visit a back catalogue was a new experience to me and one that firmly proved, in most cases, that the earlier stuff is the best (well, at least until Blur came out). It's their best song, I rex.
16) Country House
Marc Burrows: I know, I know. Stop looking at me like that. 'Country House' is the most interesting thing Blur ever did. Ignore the knees-up-mother-brown chorus and the nicked-off-of-Madness brass section, and DEFINITELY ignore the video. This is the work of a band completely on the edge of insane. Graham, who tried to throw himself out a window in this period, spikes it with a weird, discordant art-rock solo, the "blow, blow me out" sounds like Pink Floyd and there's a sickly, uncomfortable under-pin to the whole thing. It's bonkers and weird and a bit unsettling, while masquerading as music-hall. This is Blur as a misunderstood pop-art project.
15) She's So High
Marc Burrows: The most democratically written of Blur's singles: Alex wrote the chord sequence, Graham wrote the riff, Damon wrote the choruses. It manages to sound like Oasis two years before they formed and has a hypnotic appeal, joining a lurching, seasick guitar figure to a loping, baggyish beat. Damon's "I want to crawl all over her" makes not-a-jot of sense, but the imagery is weirdly evocative. It probably means more to them than it does to us (they opened with it at their comeback shows) which, in it's own way, is a reason to celebrate it. It was a double A-side, but no-one ever remembers that.
Paul Brown: One of the best things about Blur is the fact that there are as many to reasons to love them as there are people who do so. For me, their greatest strength was their ability to portray sadness within the context of a seemingly joyous pop song, and Badhead, nestling incongruously on Parklife between Bank Holiday and The Debt Collector epitomises this. The none-too-subtle (and terribly 90s) blasts of brass and the chirpy Marr-lite guitar make for a gorgeous, sun-dappled spectacle before the chorus kicks in and one of Damon’s best cocky-shy vocals rains on their parade, in the process giving us a delectable hint of the melancholia which would follow on later Blur records.
Marc Burrows: IT'S ABOUT HEROIN YOU KNOW. And it sounds like 'The Beatles'. Which is clever because at the time, a sort of second-hand Beatle-mania had cropped up around Oasis, whose mad-fer-it antics and stadium bangers had started to make Blur seem a bit old-hat. Albarn's counterstroke was brilliant - a woozy, beautiful, nodding-out ballad that whispered "Hey guys, in case you hadn't noticed, we were the creative odd-balls all along and we're brilliant it it. Shove your arenas." In the process they arguably created their perfect moment.
12: No Distance Left to Run
Paul Faller: Sometimes there’s no malice when it comes to a breakup. You wish the other person the best even though they’ve left your life. You don’t want to see them - not out of spite or hatred, but simply because it hurts too much to do so. Albarn succinctly captures that feeling of absolute emotional exhaustion on ‘No Distance Left To Run’ - his poignant lyrics combine with Coxon’s collapsing, discordant guitar line to create a thing of beauty out of an utterly miserable situation.
Dom Gourlay: Modern life may have been rubbish but these two minutes of unabated joy assured the doubters Blur weren't. Against a tide of identikit grunge and soon-to-be laddish Union Jack flag bearers, 'Advert' reignited the torch Blur lit during their run of flawless early 45s a couple of years earlier. That it wasn't released as a single probably speaks volumes for the rest of 'Modern Life Is Rubbish', but for me this was the centre piece of that album and their live shows at the time.
10) Out of Time
Sean Adams: To think that Damon is best known for his hits like 'Parklife' and 'Song 2', when he has penned some of the greatest and most heart-botheringly beautiful ballads ever committed to tape, must be a bit of a frustration to him (although I'm sure the big-big sum in his bank account and the freedom that provides, more than makes up for it). 'Out of Time' could easily be dismissed as some bass-led Radiohead-y soft song, but in its textures (the squrik of fingers sliding along the guitar, the crowd talking, the sitar(?), and whatever that reversed string/distant-train sound is in the pre-chorus that sounds like a star imploding is) and the humanity to his voice, elevates this gentle, seemingly desolate song into something devastating and full of wonder.
Hayden Woolley: Who would ever think such beauty could emerge from the fractious turmoil that surrounded Blur during Think Tank's gestation? But here it is. Like all great opening tracks it compels you to fall under its spell, a low-level hypnosis built on skittering snake-charm beats and wound by the most languid of basslines. It's a calming, repetitious daydream that unfurls as naturally as breathing itself. It's the sound of Blur expanding the lexicon of rock and pop, and as beautiful as anything they've ever produced.
8) Blue Jeans
Gemma Samways: As much as I love the forcefulness of ‘Popscene’ and the lush orchestration of ‘For Tomorrow’, Blur are at their best when they’re in understated-melancholy mode. With its ambling guitar melody, cyclical rhythm, wistful vocal and warm, accordion-like keyboard effects, ‘Blue Jeans’ doesn’t shout about its brilliance, largely because it doesn’t need to. Top marks too for – what must surely be – the only reference to “air cushioned soles” in the history of indie-pop.
Andrzej Lukowski: 13 is the best British record of the 1990s (it is, shut up) and '1992' is its apotheosis – it is staggeringly sad, effortlessly beautiful, and totally removed from anything else that was happening in music at the time. That flicker of feedback that slowly swells and swells then ignites into a mournful conflagration is just stupendous, like a pyre for the whole decade.
6) Fools Day
Marc Burrows: The single that was never meant to happen. The reunion, Hyde Park and Glastonbury had come and gone and many suspected that was that - they'd sent the old girl off in style. One last run around the block. Then, suddenly, one morning, "on a cold day in spring time" 'Fools Day' turned up and knocked everyone over. It's by no means a stone cold classic, but the very fact of its existence makes it special - suddenly we could hear them again, properly, not just wheeling out the oldies but really, truly, being Blur. Damon is all misty eyed over the "love of old, sweet music", Alex has his groove on, and then, and then, just when you're wondering where this could all be going, Graham hits these gonzo spirals and it's just...glorious. They're there. They're real. We weren't just celebrating the past anymore, suddenly we were holding on for tomorrow, and all the world felt a little better for it.
5) On Your Own
Gavin Miller: When it came out, I wasn't into electronica much, and was pretty much a fully paid up member of the Britpop club, so when I heard those weird synth squelches, that amazing glitched guitar riff and the big punchy drum machine, I was a little confused. Was I able to like this? Is it still 'real music'? Will the indie police come and take me away for liking it? Then, after about 5 minutes, I forgot all that bullshit and decided I absolutely loved it.
Marc Burrows: 'On Your Own' factoid: The guitar part was done in one take, because Graham refused to play it again.
4) Look Inside America
James Skinner: “Well we played last night / It was a good show,” sings Albarn on the first verse of ‘Look Inside America’. Then: Graham Coxon’s slight but effective lead guitar line, followed by a flourish of strings and the song proper. Depending on how you look at it, it’s one of the more throwaway tunes on one of the band’s more divisive LPs, or - and this is how I prefer to see it - a key moment on what would prove a decisive turning point for the group. Tucked between the notably scratchier, darker likes of ‘I’m Just a Killer for Your Love’ and ‘Strange News From Another Star’, Albarn relates the ennui of life on tour in the U.S.A. in a manner that’s weary yet triumphant; blasted-out for sure, yet as irresistible and melodic as the band’s very best. (Great line about Annie Hall, too.)
3) Star Shaped
Sean Adams: Everything that's great about Blur's songwriting and their quintessential Britishness, condensed into one perfect pop song. There's the pomp and silliness of Queen to the "For! The! Future!" bits shuffling alongside the wafty-armed, slightly snarky, Morrisseyian vignettes of those verses; the middle-eight features Coxon's snarling guitar as the drums snap like they were sampled from 'Let's Dance'. Then there's that elegant outro that - much-like 'The Universal', 'No Distance Left to Run' etc - somehow brings you back down to earth after bobbing around on a pogo-stick for the previous three minutes. Cut almost every song of Coxon & Co's in half, and you'll find a star-shape running through its core.
2) Song 2
Derek Robertson: Yeah, it's big, brash, and not particularly clever - and there's a certain irony in the fact that Blur, Kings of arch, social commentary and intelligent, forward-looking pop scored their biggest success by dumbing down and stealing from the three-chord song book - but that riff! That anger! It was a pure adrenaline rush of full-on rock, catnip for teenagers getting drunk at house parties. Woo hoo indeed.
1) End Of A Century
Robert Leedham: Damon Albarn’s made a career out of being more sentimental than your average geezer. When he’s not hanging out with baby elephants, Blur’s frontman sings about masculinity, middle agedness and modern day malaise in plain speaking terms. “It’s nothing special,” he proclaims in ‘End Of A Century’, but that’s not true. Music is for relating to and Albarn has rarely seemed more human than on Parklife’s angsty highlight. Sat at home surrounded by a loving girlfriend and the warm glow of his TV set, he’s still uneasy. Is this all 100 years of human progress has to offer? Don’t worry Damon, we’ve now got Netflix.
1) Re-issues reviewed: Leisure, Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, The Great Escape, Blur, 13, and Think Tank.
2) Live Review: Blur in Hyde Park, August 2012.
3) Leave 'Mr Tembo' Alone: Damon's Mercury nominated album is superb
4) Damon Albarn: The Appiest Man in Showbiz?
5) The Cribs: 21 Best Songs