10 Best Blur Songs
During the great Britpop War of the Mid '90s, only two bands were left standing after all the broken records were cleared from the battlefield: Oasis and Blur. Many assumed that Oasis would be the victor, based on their bigger commercial success in the U.S., but it turns out that Blur is the most durable of the two groups. While Oasis' two perpetually feuding Gallagher brothers front separate but equally unremarkable bands these days, Blur frontman Damon Albarn has racked up an impressive list of credits over the past decade, including forming Gorillaz, producing R&B legend Bobby Womack and releasing ambitious, if not entirely listenable, solo projects. Here's where it all started for him. Check out our list of the 10 Best Blur Songs.
'Popscene' was one of Blur's earliest singles and was supposed to be included on their excellent second album, 'Modern Life Is Rubbish.' But it bombed, barely cracking the charts in the U.K., so it was left off the LP. The relatively straightforward alt-rock song slams mindless pop music and the vapid culture it spawns -- the very same scene that summarily ignored it. Oh, the irony.
The most traditional track on the band's sixth album features guitarist Graham Coxon singing the verses (Albarn handles the choruses). Much of '13' goes lyrically and musically deeper than previous efforts; 'Coffee & TV' is one of the few songs that recalls the group's early singles. The celebrated video, featuring an animated milk carton, is terrific, too.
Blur's self-titled album from 1997 was their no-frills rock record inspired by American indie groups like Pavement. 'M.O.R.' was the last of the four singles released. The song was also heavily inspired by David Bowie's 'Lodger' album; so much, in fact, that Bowie and collaborator Brian Eno eventually received songwriting credit.
Blur was the most British of the Britpop bands, in both musical approach (they covered almost a century's worth of styles during their 15 years together) and subject matter (plenty of U.S. fans rushed to whatever the 1994 equivalent to Wikipedia was to figure to out just what they were singing about). The title track to their third album is the most British cut on our list of the Top 10 Blur Songs. Actor Phil Daniels (who was in the 1979 movie 'Quadrophenia') narrates the song -- about living in middle-class England during the mid '90s -- in a thick cockney accent. Doesn't get more British than that.
The first single from the band's fourth album contains one of its catchiest choruses. 'Country House' is more drawing of class lines from a group that explored the topic better than any other artist at the time (you sure didn't get this kinda stuff from Oasis). In the end, it's essentially social commentary fueled by a massive hook and one of Albarn's sharpest performances. It was also Blur's first No. 1 in the U.K.
The first single from the band's fifth album has nothing to do with the Fab Four -- that was Oasis' territory. Instead, the crawling, near-lethargic 'Beetlebum' is about drug use, which explains the hazy, dreamlike vibe. It was Blur's second No. 1 in the U.K. Still, Albarn does sound a little like John Lennon here.
The band's second single (which showed up on their debut album four months later) marked their first Top 10 hit in the U.K. It's also Blur's first appearance on the U.S. charts (it reached No. 82). It pretty much set the tone for all the Britpop that followed, even though Blur themselves would abandon it as their records became more adventurous.
The band's debut single, like 'There's No Other Way' (see No. 4 on our list of the 10 Best Blur Songs), eventually appeared on their first album. And just like 'There's No Other Way,' it set the template for most of the Britpop that made it onto the U.S. modern rock chart in the '90s. It's a bit noisier than most of Blur's songs (at least until 1997's "indie rock" album), but it remains one of their most popular tracks.
How else to skewer disposable, repetitive synth-pop and its empty dance culture than with a repetitive synth-pop song that sounds a lot like the real thing? 'Girls & Boys' reached No. 59 in the U.S., the band's second-highest chart placement. (It also reached Top 5 on the modern rock chart and Top 25 on, yep, the dance charts.) It's one of Blur's most playful and popular cuts.
Barely two minutes long, this blast of guitar-powered '90s punk (which indeed is the second song on 1997's self-titled LP) anchors Blur's fifth album, which was inspired by U.S. indie rock. Albarn's rousing "woo-hoo!" drives the song, but Coxon's aggressive (and distorted) riffs aren't too far behind. 'Song 2' may have been pure imitation, but Blur turned their tribute into one of their best and most durable hits. It was also their biggest U.S. single, climbing to No. 55.