Instant Expert: Blur
You’ve seen them at parties, lurking in the corner, waiting to engage in battle disguised as conversation. They’re indie rock know-it-alls, and no matter what band or musician you mention, they’ve got an opinion — strong and almost certainly negative — ready to ram down your throat. With Instant Expert, we offer preparation for these very situations. Each Thursday, in advance of your weekend carousing, we pick an artist and provide a quickie career overview, highlighting both prevailing critical opinions and the inevitable contrarian counterarguments. Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the music, you’ll be able to bluff your way through and defend your indie cred. This week: Blur.
There was a time when music fans made a big deal out of Britpop. Authenticity and influences mattered just as much as songs and hooks. When Blur released their debut album in 1991, they didn't sound like they would eventually end up changing British rock music for the next decade or so. But on their next three records, they helped define the notes, parameters and appearance of Britpop. By the time they released their seventh and final album in 2003, Blur had altered the landscape of British music to the point where almost every guitar-powered rock band today can be traced back to them.
The pieces started to fall in place for Blur on their second album, 1993's 'Modern Life Is Rubbish.' Their debut, 1991's 'Leisure,' didn't do much to distinguish the group from other pop-leaning British rock bands at the time. Frontman Damon Albarn found his voice on 'Modern Life Is Rubbish,' emerging as England's most British songwriter since Ray Davies.
'Parklife,' Blur's third album, helped set the stage for Britpop in 1994. All of the elements are in place here: the guitars, the hooks, the Britishness of it all. There's even some Eurodisco ribbing.
The band paid tribute to American indie-rock giants like Pavement and Sonic Youth on its self-titled 1997 album. The result is the loudest, noisiest and toughest record they ever made.
Oasis won the Great Britpop Battle of the '90s, right?