Though probably best known in the US for a throw-away track on their self-titled 1997 album, Blur has a career that has spanned nearly 20 years and has made them darlings in their native England and champions of anglophiles everywhere. Here is a chronological look at ten of their best in chronological order from their days as an art school band, through the Britpop years, and to their most recent album, 2003’s Think Tank.
1.”There’s No Other Way” (available on Leisure): While a solid tune, there was nothing special about “She’s So High,” and “Bang” was pretty weak. But “There’s No Other Way,” with its catchy guitar riff and swirling keys, was the single that first drew attention to Blur.
2.”Sing” (available on Leisure [UK version] and the first soundtrack to Trainspotting): This track was bumped from the US release of Leisure for the far-less memorable “I Know.” This track of shimmering noise guitar and repeated piano chords provided the background music for the most heartbreaking scene in one of the grittiest movies ever made about drug addiction.
3.”For Tomorrow” (available on Modern Life Is Rubbish): Maybe the idea of being a twentieth century boy is a little dated, a chorus of “la la la” is one everyone can sing along to. And if you do find yourself on Primrose Hill, you’ll find spray painted on the pavement, “and the view’s so niceÃ¢Â?Â¦”
4.”Pop Scene” (available on Modern Life Is Rubbish [US edition]): It didn’t fair well as a single in the UK, and it didn’t make it onto the UK version of the album. And, just to be spiteful, the band left it off of their best of record. However, nothing introduced Britpop to the world better than the blaring horn section in “Pop Scene.” And it’s still just as fantastic anthem for getting ready for a Saturday night as it was in the early ’90s.
5.”End Of A Century” (available on Parklife): Perhaps an odd choice for a single, this quirky little tune neatly ties together Parkllife – it’s mellow enough to keep things calmer, but still has a tight horn section to suit the patterns of the album. And unlike the otherwise Brit-centric lyrics, “End Of A Century” harps on those feelings of loneliness we can all identify with.
6.”London Loves” (available on Parklife): I nearly put “Girls And Boys” in this slot, but it was bumped because “London Loves” so perfectly illustrates what Britpop was about. Based on Martin Amis’ London Fields and featuring London traffic reports, this song just added fodder to the argument that deep down, every man wants to be Keith Talent.
7.”Best Days” (available on The Great Escape): The saving grace on an otherwise forgettable album. This depressing tune about the mundane daily routine successfully blends the horn section that otherwise buries the core of Blur on the album deeply into the background, creating a mournful tone. Damon Albarn’s lyrics on this track are his most deeply affecting on the album.
8.”Beetlebum” (available on Blur): Blur bassist Alex James said of this song, “Good songs are about love or drugs and great songs are about both.” How right he was. This song preceded Blur as a single and inaugurated the band’s move away from Britpop. With its crunchy guitars, big chorus, and suggestive lyrics, this song is an absolute gem.
9.”Coffee + TV” (available on 13): Yes, part of the reason this song is on the list is because it is sung by Graham Coxon. And yes, it has one of the coolest videos ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWUil383us4. But this backwards marriage proposal is full of those great noise fillers that Coxon would explore on his solo records.
10.”Out Of Time” (available on Think Tank): Even though Think Tank was met by tremendous critical acclaim, there was still a bit of resistance on the part of the fans who were sore at Coxon’s departure. But this song was a palatable song for old fans adjusting to Bur’s new direction while still infusing the influences Albarn picked up with his Mali Music project.