After the horror of “Country House” it was difficult to see how Blur could worm their way back into my affections.
Not that they cared.
They had bagged their first number one single, crushed Oasis in the Battle of Britpop and found favour with the record buying public in ways that they could hardly have dreamed of…well, Damon probably had dreams where the record buying public not only favoured them but chased the Windsors out of Buckingham Palace and installed him as King.
But worm their way back into my heart they did…
The Universal – November 13th, 1995
A cello plucked.
The sound of the band…gentle, so gentle.
Then the voice…soft, a whisper, an aural caress.
“This is the next century, where the universals free…”
The nightmare of the lad fest that was “Country House” is banished.
When I was seven I had a horrid nightmare.
I can remember every moment of it even now, almost forty years later.
When I woke up and stumbled into my mum and dad’s bedroom, and up into their bed, it was the soothing words of comfort that helped push the awfulness of what my subconscious had conjured to the back of my mind, erasing it for at least a little while.
That is what “The Universal” did to the adult me.
The slow build to the chorus is what really makes this…”It really, really, really could happen…”. And then one of the most maudlin lines in the entire Blur catalogue…”When the days they seem to fall through you, well just let them go.”. Just let them go. Let them go. Go.
The fact that the accompanying video sees the band cast as droogs from “A Clockwork Orange” sat in the Korova Milk Bar gives a beautiful song an air of menace that acts as a magnificently unsettling counterpoint.
All was forgiven.
Stereotypes – February 12th, 1996
Happy Valentine’s day.
When people leap to the defence of “Parklife” and “Country House” by telling me that they are crowd pleasers, sing-along-a-Britpop classics, music for the masses, I get quite cross.
Hard to believe innit.
Here is why I get cross…because I love it, love it, when a band I adore breaks on through to the other side and gets mainstream success. The thrill of seeing Morrissey on Top of the Pops with his hearing aid, the sheer wonder of Shaun Ryder and Bez on teatime television, Soda on the Big Breakfast…it doesn’t get any better.
And it’s a big but.
I want that success to be achieved by my bands (I know, I know…I’m a pretentious arse) at their absolute best.
Better than their best.
“Stereotypes” may not be the bestest of Blur but it is a wild ride of a single, all demented fairground attractions and choppy guitars, demented lyrics and cocksure swagger…it is, simply, a crowd pleaser of the sort that Damon reckons he can churn out without breaking sweat and it is, crucially, better than those other songs I mentioned a moment ago.
I likes it.
Quite a lot if I’m being honest with you.
Charmless Man – April 29th, 1996
I got into a bit of bother over on the old social media for telling people what to think about “Country House” so I am going to give an entirely unbiased commentary on “Charmless Man”.
Here we go.
“Charmless Man” was the fourth single to be released from the album “The Great Escape”.
And that was “The Great Escape”.
Four singles that helped consolidate Blur’s status as Lords of the Britpop Manor from an album that was, at best, a mixed bag and, at worst, a terrible disappointment. There were fifteen tracks on “The Great Escape” and, while it is easy to criticise the album…mainly because of “Country House”, “Charmless Man” and “Ernold Same”…there are moments of real brilliance there too; “Best Days” is gorgeous, “Fade Away” is a lovely tribute to The Specials, “The Universal” is beautiful, “It Could Be You” would have sat comfortably on “Modern Life is Rubbish” and “Entertain Me” would have made a better single than the aforementioned, charmless, “Charmless Man”.
In fact, if you take “Country House”, “Charmless Man”, “Ernold Same” and “Top Man” (a song I have a near pathological hatred for) off of the album and release “Entertain Me” and “Fade Away” as singles you have an album that looks, and sounds, like an entirely different proposition.
I don’t know why people don’t ask me about these things before they go ahead with their plans.