So many people,
And they all go hand in hand,
Hand in hand through their,
Know what I mean?"
Blur is an Alternative Rock band from Colchester, England (though more often associated with London), chiefly existing in The '90s. Partial founders of the Britpop movement, the band consists of singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James, and drummer Dave Rowntree.
Debuted in 1989 on the Shoegazing and Madchester scenes as Seymour before signing to Food Records under the condition that they change their name to Blur (and, according to fan legend, that drummer Dave Rowntree stop wearing pyjama pants on stage). Soon after released their first album Leisure to moderate success, followed by the very British "Popscene" single and a tour of America to predictable results.
They achieved great success with Parklife a few years later, then switched to noisy, experimental Alternative Rock for the next couple of albums until eventually dissolving after Think Tank sometime around 2004. The original lineup, with Graham Coxon in tow, reunited in 2009 to much anticipation and released a new song, "Fool's Day" in the Spring of 2010. The band released two more new songs - "Under the Westway" and "The Puritan" - in July 2012 and performed at an Olympics closing ceremony concert in Hyde Park in August along-side New Order, The Specials and Bombay Bicycle Club. After a bit of a Troubled Production, they released their first album in 12 years, The Magic Whip on April 27, 2015.
Not to be confused with the video game.
- Leisure (1991)
- Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)
- Parklife (1994)
- The Great Escape (1995)
- Blur (1997)
- 13 (1999)
- Think Tank (2003)
- The Magic Whip (2015)
You can now vote for your favourite Blur album by heading over to the Best Album crowner.
This band provides examples of:
- Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: For instance, "Song 2"'s chorus (it has more lyrics than WOO-HOO) goes "When I feel heavy meTAL / And I'm pins and needLES".
- Affectionate Parody: The song "Song 2" parodies Grunge.
- It was intended to be an affectionate parody of Graham Coxon's favorite band at the time, Pavement. The lyrics might be, the music certainly isn't.
- Album Title Drop: Modern Life Is Rubbish in "For Tomorrow". Parklife in... well "Parklife".
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Alex James in the "Parklife" video.
- Audience Participation Song:
- "The Universal". During live performances, the audience takes the place of the choir.
- During the Hyde Park performance, the audience singing along to "Coffee and TV" and "Girls and Boys" was actually louder than the band at times.
- "Tender" is probably Blur's ultimate example of this. When performed live, it becomes a massive ten-minute audience-participation epic. Also, during Graham Coxon's hiatus from the band, the audience sang his lines "oh my baby/oh my baby/oh why/oh my", and these lines have been used to call the band back onto the stage for an encore.
- The audience supplies the "TRAY-CEE JAAAAACKS" shouts on "Tracy Jacks".
- The audience often provides the "Woo-hoos" on "Song 2", though it's also common for the audience to sing along with the whole song.
- Badass Boast: "I'm the original" in "Me, White Noise".
- The Band Minus the Face: Fans of Coxon saw Think Tank as this.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- "To the End" has Stereolab singer Lætitia Sadier speaking French between the lines of the verses. The "French version" from the "Parklife" single renders all of the lyrics in French instead (thus making the song hilarious because of Damon's terrible pronunciation), and the "La Comédie" version from the "Country House" single replaces Sadier with Françoise Hardy, but has her and Albarn forming a Vocal Tag Team with Albarn singing in English.
- "Yuko and Hiro" features backing vocals in Japanese, which the band wisely decided to hire Cathy Gillat to sing instead of attempting it themselves.
- "Girls and Boys" has a bit of Gratuitous German.
- Also, a b-side to "Girls and Boys" called "People in Europe" contains lyrics in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Swedish, all with some embarrassingly, comically bad pronunciation.
- The cover of The Magic Whip features the band's name and title of the album in Cantonese.
- Britain is Only London: The For Tomorrow video is like this, but it makes sense since London is referenced several times during the film.
- Conversely, on their first American tour, the D Js assumed any band coming over was from Manchester, something that irked them. In fairness, the band was riding the popularity of several Manchester bands such as the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays at the time.
- Britpop: Well, duh. Their albums Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape form a loose Britpop trilogy about the lives of the Working, Middle and Upper classes in Britain, respectively.
- Break-Up Song: Most of 13 is about Damon Albarn's split from his long-term girlfriend Justine Frischmann, the singer for the band Elastica.
- "No Distance Left to Run" is pretty much the breakup song.
- B-Side: A 22 CD set was released in 1999: 22 singles with all their original b-sides, a 127 track total. They were also collected, with additional rarities, on the blur 21 boxset.
- Call-and-Response Song: "Parklife", with the spoken lines done by Phil Daniels.
- Call-Back: "Song 2" gets its number from the fact that the group had already released a b-side called "A Song" the previous year (although, they are musically unrelated).
- "M.O.R." contains the line "here comes a low", a potential reference to the earlier song "This Is a Low".
- The song "1992" on 13 was a re-recorded outtake from the "Modern Life Is Rubbish" era. To long-term listeners, the song is obviously very similar to a number of downbeat songs of the time (compare 'Miss America' and 'Peach', for instance) , but to hammer the fact home, Graham Coxon reuses guitar effects that he used specifically in that year, most notably on "Into Another", a song that was going to be on Blur's 1992 album, but ended up being a B-Side instead.
- Camp Straight: Most obvious on "Mr. Robinson's Quango".
- Careful with That Axe: Albarn delves into this in specific tracks:
- The last lines of "Swamp Song":STICK IT IN MY VEINS!
- A sudden one when "Crazy Beat" enters its last third:BREAK OUT! IT'S A BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE- *voice crackles in deliberate distortion* -EEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT
- This bit in "Me, White Noise", complete with sudden heavy vocal distortion.furthermore... YOU'RE BORING!
- Happens again at the very end, but without vocal distortion:It's me, white noise. ME WHITE NOISE ME WHITE NOISE ME WHITE NOISE ME WHITE NOISE, UNDERSTAND!?
- The last lines of "Swamp Song":
- Concept Album: The band's no stranger to the idea.
- Most of the songs on The Great Escape are linked by a similar theme loneliness and detachment.
- Blur is an album largely about problems in Damon and his girlfriend Justine's relationship; 13 is about their subsequent breakup.
- Think Tank is a very loose concept album revolving around war and love.
- The Magic Whip is inspired by the band's trip to Hong Kong and China and is themed as such in both song and music videos.
- Darker and Edgier: Their first few albums were bright and bubbly, but their albums gradually got darker and melancholic as their sound progressed, with the subject matter of 13 mainly being that of Damon's split from his girlfriend, and most of the album having a very eerie and somber feel to it.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: A truly creepy example in "I'm Just a Killer for Your Love".
- A Day in the Limelight:
- The songs penned by Coxon, "You're So Great" and "Coffee & TV" where he gets to sing the vocals. (He also sang the "Rednecks" B-side in a Fake American accent.)
- Alex sings lead vocals on "Far Out" and "Alex' Song". The latter through pitch-shifting effects a demo released on the Blur 21 box set does not feature these effects. See Obvious Beta below on more about these songs.
- Drowning My Sorrows: "Yuko and Hiro".I drink in the evenings
It helps with relaxing
I can't sleep without drinking
We drink together
- Drugs Are Bad:
- "Beetlebum" is about negative drug experiences that Damon Albarn had with the aforementioned Justine Frischmann.
- Bassist Alex James admitted to spending £1,000,000 on cocaine during the band's mid-90's heyday, a decision he regretted after becoming clean. After Blur broke up and he became a farmer and journalist, James went on assignment for The BBC to Columbia for the 2008 TV documentary Cocaine Dairies: Alex James in Columbia, about the horrors of the Columbian cocaine trade.
- Early-Bird Cameo:
- "Death of a Party" was originally recorded in 1992 as an acoustic demo, but not released. The band forgot about it until they rediscovered it in 1996 and released it on CD as that years fan club release. They liked it so much they decided to rerecord it for their 1997 album Blur. Remixes were commissioned, but it didn't make a full single.
- The same is true of the song "1992" which was written and home-demoed in the year it's named after, but was deemed too dark and depressing. That is, until 1999, when Blur made their actually dark and depressing album 13 on which it fit perfectly. The demo of "1992" has never been released. What is interesting about the 1999 version is that guitar effects are used which Blur hadn't used since their unreleased 1992 album (compare about 3:40 in "1992" to those at the end of "Into Another"), with its guitar beat even being similar to "Sing" from that album.
- "I Got Law" is an early demo version of the Gorillaz song "Tomorrow Comes Today" - so early the only recognisable element is Damon's vocal melody, and the incredibly lo-fi drum machine and outdated synths make it sound like something recorded by The Cheat. "I Got Law" is so obscure (it only appears as a bonus track to the Japanese version of 13) that it isn't known whether Damon actually wanted to release it.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Their first album, Leisure, is mostly a Shoegazing-Madchester fusion. The weirdness is lessened once their early Shoegazing references creep back to the surface on Blur, 13 and Think Tank. The alternative dance elements also return with a vengeance on Think Tank.
- Pre-dating even Leisure, their material as Seymour, which eventually surfaced on the B-sides of "Sunday Sunday" and the Blur 21 boxset, was noisy, fast-paced Pop Punk-y stuff. This was similarly nodded to with their recording of noisy, rapid rave-ups like "Bank Holiday", "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." and "We've Got a File on You".
- Epic Rocking:
- The studio version of "Tender" is seven minutes long, and ranges from nine to ten minutes long when performed live.
- Also "Essex Dogs", "Battle", "Caramel", "Bustin' and Dronin'" "Me, White Noise", "Garden Central", and "Jets". These guys know how to make a track run for a long time.
- Epileptic Flashing Lights: Some of the shots (especially the last scene) from "There's No Other Way" has some strobe lights.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: "To the End", with an alternate version recorded entirely in French. As mentioned above the original featured French spoken word backing vocals by Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab. The all-French "La Comedie" version features vocals from Françoise Hardy.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Song 2" is the second song on Blur, lasts exactly two minutes and two seconds, was released as the second single from the album (after "Beetlebum") and peaked at #2 on the UK Charts. Almost as if they willed it.
- Fever Dream Episode: "Swamp Song" has a hallucinatory quality and the repeated line "Give me fever" in the verses, building up to some kind of delirium at the outro, with Albarn screaming "STICK IT IN MY VEINS!"Context . It even ends with a very quiet voice saying "Sleep. Shh... sleep".
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Damon is choleric, Graham is melancholic, Alex is sanguine, Dave is phlegmatic.
- Genre Roulette:
- Modern Life is Rubbish features Punk Rock ("Advert"), neo-psychedelia ("Chemical World"), baggy ("Oily Water") and vaudeville music-hall ("Sunday Sunday").
- Parklife feature the synthpop-influenced hit single "Girls & Boys", the instrumental waltz interlude of "The Debt Collector", the punk rock-influenced "Bank Holiday", the spacey, Syd Barrett-esque "Far Out", and the fairly new wave-influenced "Trouble in the Message Centre".
- Genre Shift:
- Gratuitous Panning: The drums and guitar in "Essex Dogs".
- Greatest Hits Album: Two: The Best of Blur (2000) and Midlife (2009), though Midlife wasn't much of a greatest-hits as a plain old retrospective, as it purposely excluded a few key singles like "There's No Other Way" and "Country House" (not because the band didn't like them but because their label wanted to market them as a Serious 90's Guitar Band) in favor of relatively obscure album tracks like "Blue Jeans" and "Strange News from Another Star".
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Damon and Graham.
- Hidden Track:
- 13 is a gold mine of those. It features a few instrumental tracks hidden after the end of "Coffee & TV", "B.L.U.R.E.M.I.", "Battle", "Trailerpark" and "Caramel", making those songs seem longer than they actually are.
- The ones after "Coffee & TV" and "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." are short organ doodles (the latter being notable for being played on a synth organ that makes it sound like an Earthbound soundtrack outtake).
- The one after "Battle" is Graham and Alex soloing over a keyboard drone.
- The one after "Trailerpark" is Graham and Alex playing a chugging Krautrock riff over a Casio drum machine.
- The one after "Caramel" starts with a spooky, lo-fi keyboard melody before transitioning into a distorted, funky groove.
- There's a similar hidden track after "Bugman", sometimes referred to as "Bugman Exitlude": the song itself ends with overwhelming guitar noise and the sound of a motorbike starting up, before switching into an almost funky bassline played by Alex, Dave pounding the drums in unison with an electronic drumloop, Graham adding some fuzzed-out complementary licks, and Damon singing "space is the place" in falsetto.
- Think Tank hides "Me, White Noise" in the pregap before the first track in some editions.
- Blur hides "Interlude" in the length (as in inside rather than at the start or the end of the track) of the final track "Essex Dogs", making it look longer than it actually is. In the American release, its made even longer with "Dancehall" being added between the two.
- 13 is a gold mine of those. It features a few instrumental tracks hidden after the end of "Coffee & TV", "B.L.U.R.E.M.I.", "Battle", "Trailerpark" and "Caramel", making those songs seem longer than they actually are.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: With some regularity, especially when distorted vocals become their norm.
- The "Chemical World" video is set in a forest area, a waterfall, and a large grassy field with many animals making an appearance, which is a stark contrast on a song with lyrics about adversities in urban life.
- They helped spearhead the Britpop movement in order to reclaim dominance from American music. Blur featured a whole new sound inspired by American bands like Pavement.
- Keet: Damon Albarn on stage and in music videos is all over the place. This is especially noticeable in contrast to the rest of the band, who don't have a nearly as lively a stage presence as he has.
- Large Ham: "Mr. Robinson's Quango".
- Last Note Nightmare: "Sing".
- List Song: The lyrics of "Far Out" are a list of stars and moons visible at night.
- Looped Lyrics: "We've Got a File on You" is... well... just that. And nothing else. "Jets" as well.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Country House" is a bright, shiny pop tune about a horribly depressed rich man dealing with the emptiness of his existence.
- "Clover Over Dover", a seemingly cheery tune on a song about suicide. Even cheerier on its demo.
- "Ice Cream Man", the main track from The Magic Whip? The lyrics might look fun and based on some nursery rhyme, but the true undertone is shown under the moody, bleak tune: The lyrics are about the Tiananmen Square massacre.
- Many, if not most of their songs have Lyrical Dissonance to some degree. They epitomize the very Britpop tendency of marrying rather melancholic lyrics to bouncy, bubbly pop songs.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Implied by the first verse of "Song 2".I got my head checked
by a jumbo jet
It wasn't easy
but nothing is, no
- Metal Scream: A rather impressive one at the end of "Swamp Song".
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: They are typically a 2-4, with their softest songs being a 1 and their heaviest songs being a 6 or 7.
- Mundane Made Awesome: "This Is a Low", a sweeping, gorgeous, emotional, epic track based off of a weather forecast.
- Murder Ballad: "I'm Just a Killer for Your Love", if you can understand it.
- Musical Squares: The Best Of, their Greatest Hits Album. Damon Albarn in his pre-Gorillaz days takes the bottom left square.
- Music Video Overshadowing: "Coffee and TV". That video with the walking milk box.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: The band's influences grew more eclectic as its career progressed, which initially manifested itself in frequently light-hearted experiments (the Country Music piss-take "Rednecks") and forays into genres like jazz ("Got Yer!"), sixties' lounge-pop ("To The End (La Comédie)"), music hall (covers of "Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Made for Two)" and "Let's All Go Down the Strand"), cheesy background muzak ("Supa Shoppa", "Eine Kleine Lift Musik"), Synth-Pop ("People in Europe", "Girls & Boys") dramatic faux-soundtrack work ("Theme from an Imaginary Film") and waltz ("Anniversary Waltz") showing up on their B-sides, but their abandonment of Britpop saw their adventurous tendencies come to the forefront, through the electronic influences permeating 13, the Afrobeat Funk Rock of the single "Music Is My Radar", and in their The Band Minus the Face incarnation, the Middle Eastern orchestrations ("Out of Time"), Blues guitar ("Brothers and Sisters") and Afrobeat-influenced funky jamming ("Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club", "Jets") of Think Tank. During their Britpop-era rivalry with Oasis, this was one of the primary arguments brought in Blur's favour.
- New Sound Album: At least half of them.
- Modern Life Is Rubbish introduced the Britpop sound that the band became famous for after the alt-rock sound of Leisure failed to make many waves in a primarily grunge-dominated scene.
- Blur broke away from the band's Britpop sound and shifted more towards a lo-fi/indie sound inspired by bands like Pavement.
- 13 ventured into experimental, psychedelic, and electronic music.
- Think Tank took inspiration from a slew of genres (dance music, hip hop, dub, jazz, African music).
- Non-Appearing Title: "Song 2", "Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club", "M.O.R." (which stands for 'middle of the road', which does appear in the song), "Essex Dogs", "Country Sad Ballad Man", (technically - it contains the all of the words in the title, just not together), and "Trouble in the Message Centre".
- Obvious Beta: A rare music example in Parklife's "Far Out". Compare the song that ended in the album against its demo and a remix that completes the album song. Chances are that you will prefer either the demo or the remix over the final track due to how they basically chopped half the song on its way to the album.
- "Alex's Song" from the same album's B-sides also suffers from this, due to Alex James Corpsing heavily against the pitch distortion and eventually giving in and dropping out of the mic to laugh. The demo has some extra content compared to the "finished" song. It seems Alex James tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to his songs...
- Pac Man Fever: In "Jubilee", right after the lyric "So he just plays on his computer game" some beepy sound effects are played. Justified, though, as the song was released in 1994 when arcades were still common enough for listeners to get the reference.
- Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Used in the shoegazing songs on Blur's first album, dropped for their Britpop albums (with a few exceptions), and then reappeared again from their self-titled album and onwards.
- Poe's Law: "Song 2" was written as a satire of grunge, but ended up being an archetype of the genre.
- Precision F-Strike: In both the original and the alternative version of "Me, White Noise":And you trip over yourself, and you think to yourself:
'Why am I here?'
I'm here because I've got no fucking choice
- Protest Song: The rare single "Don't Bomb When You Are the Bomb" was written as a protest against the invasion of Iraq; most of its copies were handed out and destroyed at an anti-war rally.
- Rearrange the Song: Several of the Leisure-era songs originally had hard drum beats (typical of the Seymour period), but they were changed to the groovier baggy beat at the insistence of their label. You can hear this particularly in comparing the Blur 21 demos of "I Love Her" and "I'm Fine" to the final versions, as well as numerous live shows from the period.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blur themselves were the blue to Oasis's red oni during their rivalry. Within the band though, Damon and Alex are reds, while Graham and Dave are blues.
- Scatting: Very much! Let's see: "For Tomorrow", "Magic America", "Charmless Man", "It Could Be You", "Song 2", "Swamp Song", "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." and many more.
- Self-Titled Album: Their fifth, which is when they abandoned Britpop.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Damon Albarn, frequently, with Graham Coxon doing additional back-up vocals as well.
- Self-Referential Track Placement: The second track on their Self-Titled Album is simply called "Song 2." (All the other tracks have normal names.)
- Sensory Abuse: The Seymour demo of "She's So High". The song was really beta by then and it's very clear it was made on some garage. What qualifies that demo into this trope, however, is that near the end of the eleven-minute repetition, Albarn starts screaming into the microphone and it audibly distorts every time he raises his voice. Yeah, we are indeed glad they reworked the song enough to become good material in Leisure.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: The premise of "Crazy Beat".
- Significant Anagram: The title of "Dan Abnormal" is an anagram of "Damon Albarn". Albarn also made guest appearances on Elastica songs under anagram pseudonyms, once as Dan Abnormal and once as Norman Balda.
- The other bandmembers get this treatment in the "M.O.R." video, with Graham Coxon becoming "Morgan C. Hoax", Alex James becoming "Lee Jaxsam", and Dave Rowntree getting "Trevor Dewane".
- The video for "The Universal" is one to Stanley Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange.
- The video for "To the End" is a shout out to Last Year at Marienbad.
- The "Parklife" video is a homage to Tin Men.
- Fela Kuti's drummer Tony Allen is given a shout-out in "Music Is My Radar", with the line "Tony Allen got me dancing".
- Solo Side Project: Graham Coxon wrote and released his own albums while the band was still together, and has continued his solo career post-breakup.
- Similarly, Damon Albarn released both a couple of soundtrack albums and the first Gorillaz album whilst the band was originally together. He went on to make Gorillaz full time after Think Tank.
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Song 2 goes "WOO-HOO".
- Spelling Song: "Top Man" and "B.L.U.R.E.M.I."
- Spoken Word in Music: Time and again the band does this.
- "Parklife", most notably, with the verses being spoken by Phil Daniels and the chorus sung by Albarn.
- The "...and the radio says" before each chorus of "This Is a Low".
- In "Ernold Same", as if a story is being told.
- "Essex Dogs" too, this time with Albarn speaking almost the entire lyrics in an almost silent voice tone.
- "Me, White Noise", also featuring Phil Daniels.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Graham Coxon sings on three songs he wrote, "You're So Great", "Coffee and TV" and co-lead on "Tender" and the B-side "Red Necks," while bassist Alex James wrote and sang on "Far Out" and (in a Chipmunked vocal) the B-side "Alex's Song." Dave Rowntree's only vocal is on the Think Tank-era demo "Avoid the Traffic."
- Thematic Series: Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife, and The Great Escape form a loose trilogy about the lives of the Working, Middle, and Upper classes in Britain, respectively.
- Theremin: "Essex Dogs".
- Title-Only Chorus: "I'm Just a Killer for Your Love".
- Together in Death/Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: Milky the Milk Carton (and his strawberry milk carton lover) at the end of the music video for "Coffee & TV".
- Trope Makers: "Popscene" is sometimes considered the first Britpop single.
- Or, the first one to start the Britpop revival in the 90s, since rock songs with British sensibilities were a thing since the 60's.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "B.L.U.R.E.M.I."
- Vocal Dissonance: Damon Albarn's average singing voice early on versus his much deeper speaking voice.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "People In Europe", in multiple languages.