BLUR – “Best of” + Live CD
This should be fantastic. Its not. Poorly thought through and ill conceived, this cash in is one of the worst ideas in recent times. Forsaking and largely ignoring the earlier material, (only 3 of its 18 tracks are from the pre-“Girls and Boys” era, 3 out of the first 7 singles, and still the non-album “Popscene” didn’t make it???), Its tracklisting chosen by the market research and market demographics, This is a crass and bland cash in. Shame, because the music contains many of the defining moments of the 90's, wrapped in a deco-art sleeve and a market demographic.
From the opening “Beetlebum” and “Song 2” the chronology of this album is completely over the place, as if designed to detract from its overall impact. Well, I guess its what Mr XR3I wants, according to the EMI market research department. If this had been presented chronologically it would have been a far more valid and complete compilation, if only to show how much Blur deconstructed themselves with 1997s’ lo-fi influenced “blur” album (of which motorheadesque “Chinese Bombs” remains the best moment). As it stands, this just shows how little change the band undertook, how conventional they remained, just by dropping a horn section – for example “On Your Own“ or “MOR” (omitted from this collection, but included on the Bonus live CD) could easily have fitted onto 1995s’ “Great Escape” (which was anything but). The novelty value of “Country House” and “Charmless Man” remain intact, “the Universal” remains forever the soundtrack to a British gas advert in progress. ”To The End” remains a touching haunting anthem for a 1000 breakups. ”Girls and Boys” still debates the potential feminisation of holiday makers in Ibiza…the irony and sarcasm lost on the demographic this collection is aimed at, an anthem for the 20somethings that embraced that and “Parklife” as soundtracks for a summer. A celebration of their own mundanity rather than seeing the intellectual snobbishness of Damons better than thou approach, and they didn’t even get the joke! How Damon and Graham Coxon must be laughing, while Graham spends all the royalties on surfboards and American lo-fi 7” singles by Unclimable Ambulance or Slint in his middle youth, which just shows how much the band are at odds with their audience.
So what do we get? A collection of damn fine songs, lumped together carelessly and thoughtlessly put together in a way that makes them just seem, well, ordinary rather than the shining jewels we always thought they were. “No distance left to run” is still heartbreakingly beautiful, But the Intel-inside selling “Song 2” (woobloody hoo) just makes it seem like they’ve just bought a fuzzpedal and turned lo-fi just because, well, they can. A Band that remain popstars despite the best efforts of their guitarist. At least they know which side the bread is buttered. New song “Music is my radar” is again a creative misfire, a sub talking heads funk workout devoid of tune or melody. Pointless, and a creative dead end, and the only purpose it serves on this collection is to shift more units, as well as point out how Blur lost the plot a long time ago.
The live CD is far more interesting. Pristine, anaemic, superbly recorded, totally unrepresentative of the actual gig itself ,designed to plug a £100 box set of singles, which was a folly at the best of times. Its probably the key selling point for most blur fans, but the brevity of the CD (44 minutes of a 100+ minute gig) makes it only a shadow of the live album it could or should have been though: Only 1 of the first 8 tracks is featured…(“She’s so High”), and then it’s a run though the predictable singles in order complete with Karaoke sections, in exactly the same way that the "Live At Budokan" CD did. It could have been more valid if again, it had been anything other than a butchered highlights CD , but as it stands, this album is poorly thought through, ill conceived, a greatest hits designed by committee e of market researchers rather than for the fans. Its an album for middle England, with all the rough edges shaved off. That “Popscene” didn’t make it is criminal. Worth receiving as a Christmas present – which is undoubtably the intention of EMI now that “Kid A” will sell about a fifth of “Ok Computer”, and that the EMI executives need to secure their Christmas bonuses. And at best It's Karoake Blur, and We like to sing along, Although the words are wrong….
6Graham Reed's Score