brent johnson digs up another lost treasure, this week from Blur …
In America, most people know Blur for two syllables:
Woo-hoo!That would be the famous hook from ‘Song 2,’ the British band’s only major hit on this side of the Atlantic — a quick burst of shouting vocals and grungy guitar.
But back home, Blur were music gods. In the 1990s, they helped launch the Britpop movement in their native country — a genre that mixed colorful, catchy songs with British slang, British accents and a celebration of all things English. Blur and Oasis were the Beatles and Stones of the movement — with the press and public often arguing over which act was more supreme. (Answer: Oasis had the style, attitude and anthemic grandeur, but Blur had better songs. Plus, their 1994 album Parklife is Britpop’s defining statement. And they happen to be one of my favorite bands ever.)
Oasis, though, were the only Britpoppers to hit it big in the States. Blur had a string of smash records in the U.K., but it wasn’t until ‘Song 2’ in 1997 that they landed in the U.S.Top 10. Hilariously, they wrote the tune to poke fun at American music’s penchant for Nirvana-like angst.
Still, all of Blur’s albums are worth owning. They’re collections of perfect little pop songs — filled with detailed character sketches, cheeky humor, instantly memorable chord progressions and unique musical twists. Frontman Damon Albarn sprinkled songs with carnival-like keyboard parts. Guitarist Graham Coxon eschewed solos for pretzelish riffs. Picking a ‘lost song’ of theirs is difficult.
But ‘Blue Jeans’ — an album cut from 1993’s excellent Modern Life Is Rubbish — encapsulates what Blur did best. It’s laced with a riff Albarn plays on a melodica, a keyboard instrument you play by blowing into a pipe, kind of like a trumpet-like mini-piano. It’s also a beautiful ballad about true love … and shopping for sneakers. Sometimes, the two go hand in hand.
Blur broke up in 2003, but Albarn has since found massive success in the U.S., as the guiding force behind Gorillaz. Blur also reunited in 2009 for a slew of giant shows in Britain. Here’s hoping they’ll get back in the studio and record more songs like this one …