I left Blur a while ago, when I finished reading Alex James book « A bit of a Blur ». The band had exploded right in the middle of Think Tank’s recording sessions and it looked really gloomy. Damon and Graham’s relationship was such a struggle it seemed obvious fixing it would be the only key to any further Blur material.
When they reappeared in 2009 for a bunch of concerts I was wary. I thought their reunion looked genuine but I couldn’t understand why they would show off on such big stages. What was the purpose? Although the media were getting all crazy about their comeback and the Hyde Park gigs, given the particular context, the band didn’t really made a fuss about it.
Damon kept telling the press he was not sure it would be followed by anything, and he implied the gigs were a desperate and unique attempt to work things out. It could as well be the end of it all. Of course, that was quite a tease. Everybody would want to go to the shows !
But yes, Graham and Damon finally had a chat after all these years, and felt like they could give it a try.
When you’re in a band, playing can sort a bunch of issues between egos. The thing is, those guys are not in a band, they are in Blur. One can easily understand how tricky it may be.
As most european kids of my generation, britpop was my scene. In the nineties, it was the musical movement I adored. Blur, Elastica, or Sleeper were my favorites and they strongly influenced me. I watched MTV all day long and often went on holidays in London, Wales, or near Dublin to practice my english. I would usually spend all my pocket money in records, english music magazines or fish and chips.
Therefore, those bands were like older brothers and sisters. I watched them giving interviews, performing, and I followed their releases. They were part of my life. For some reason I thought I had a lot to learn from them and their songs, but I never really adopted a fan attitude. They were just doing the job I dreamed of, so I watched them tirelessly, trying to understand how it all worked.
Blur’s comeback was something I feared. But on the other hand, I knew the guys were smart enough, and wouldn’t reappear unless they had something valuable to share.
When the first pictures of the band working on new songs popped up on the internet I was surprised by how simple it all looked. All band members in the same room, small studio, in a total DIY atmosphere. The 30 minutes documentary that was released a few days after the release says just that : they needed to hide somewhere, jam, and it would eventually lead to a fine record. Graham obviously took the lead, and I believe that helped putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
The result is a great Blur record. It’s funny how the esthetics of it all -the cover, the chinese signs and artwork, and the songs themselves- contrast with the behind the scenes atmosphere. Mostly made of shitty iPad Videos of four guys working in a crappy studio… well, that’s not fancy at all ! Maybe fans were expecting something else, but it speaks for itself. All band members seem to be enjoying themselves and that’s all we needed to know.
I don’t want to write about the record itself. I am not a music critic. But I do like it and I think it’s a wonderful Blur record. It’s typical : great songwriting, nonchalant basslines and catchy guitar riffs with an elegant sound. Typical doesn’t mean it’s just another Blur record. It’s truly different, and there is a melancoly and solemnity about it that makes it really moving. Maybe it’s not the best record they’ve ever made, but it’s probably the most endearing one.
I feel my big brothers finally made up and it’s somehow heartwarming.
After ‘The Magic Whip’ finished spinning on my turntable, I was happy and wanted to hug those four guys and thank them for making pop music so bloody exciting.