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"Midlife: A Beginners Guide to Blur"

Blur – Midlife: A Beginners Guide to Blur
10 July 2009, 13:00 Written by Lauren Down
midlife_blurWhen Blur entered into an ambiguous hiatus at the turn of the millennium the nation merely seemed to shrug its shoulders at the fact that one of the best British bands of the past 20 years had parted ways. Graham Coxon proceeded to work on his introverted solo records, whilst drummer Dave Rowntree trained as a lawyer and failed as a politician, Alex James became cheesemaker and Damon Albarn continued his cartoon based rock band side project and produced a Chinese Opera. Throw in some sports cars and an over-sized plasma screen and you’ve got a perfect midlife crisis. But just in case you didn’t know by now, having graced Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage with what critics are calling one of the best headline performances ever, Blur are back.Originally formed in 1989, Blur’s second single ‘There’s No Other Way’ broke into the Top Ten in the Spring of 1991. However, it was in 1993 that the modern masterpiece that is Modern Life is Rubbish, followed by the indie-altering, multi-million selling Parklife which established Blur alongside their peers and sparked what is now known at ‘The Battle of Britpop’ between them and fellow stars Oasis. And whilst fears in the late nineties that Oasis was going to ultimately win the battle seemed confirmed when Coxon up and left after 2003’s Think Tank, Blurs recent reunions have rightfully put them back on the throne they held in the mid nineties.Having already released The Best of Blur back in 2000, Midlife: A Beginners Guide to Blur offers a broader spectrum of what makes Blur, Blur. Designed for casual listeners often only familiar with their singles, Midlife contains many of the hits whilst revealing what loyal fans will already know; Blur have many songs far removed from their radio-friendly indie pop formular.Opening the first disc of Midlife is the shambling rhythm of the abrasive guitar-led ‘Beetlebum,’ which despite not being entirely designed for radio gave the band their second number one in 1997 and demonstrated Coxon's growing influence. Happily this compilation also includes modern classics such as the minimalist shoe-gazings of ‘Out of Time’ and the Coxon-vocaled ‘Coffee and TV’ as well as the famed hits of the mid-nineties such as ‘Song 2’ and ‘Girls and Boys.’ The penultimate track ‘Sing’ is lifted from the debut album Leisure and with its thudding piano keys, soft strings and harmonies.Beginning where the first disc leaves off with lost treasure of the reflectively moody ‘This is a Low,’ disc 2 continues to showcase the forgotten gems hidden amongst Blur’s discography, including ‘Advert’ as well as the under-appreciated single ‘Popscene’ and the slightly spaced-out ‘Trimm Trabb’ in which Albarn’s hauntingly monotonous voice talks about trainers.Midlife is akin to a collection that the band themselves would highlight; basically ‘Parklife’ but no ‘Country House!’ And with no new material to show as of yet, one hopes that the title of their latest compilation is a hint at the beginning of a new chapter in Blur’s musical journey. 90%
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