Following the number one smash that was “Beetlebum” was going to be difficult. Not because Blur were some sort of one hit wonders…they were, by now, firmly established chart stars, darlings of the music press and record buying public alike and had elevated themselves way above the level that anyone involved with them in the early baggy years could ever have imagined possible. No, the difficulty was going to lie in topping, or at least matching, both the success and the quality of “Beetlebum”. While their level of success had remained constant when it came to the singles they released it would be fair to say that those same singles were a mixed bag in terms of quality. For every “Chemical World” there was a “Country House”.
The second single from “Blur” was the second song on the album.
A song that contained two verse and two choruses.
With a run time of 2 minutes.
Song 2 – April 7th, 1997
Woo and indeed HOO.
A jumbo jet of a song.
A sonic boom.
All heavy metal and pins and needles.
If you were never sure why you needed Blur in your life then “Song 2” gave you a gloriously profane answer, without ever actually using profanities.
A rage filled bag of nonsense.
A flurry of guitars and drums and bass.
This was the song Nirvana thought they were making when they recorded “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
Grunge for sharp kids.
Rock with enough roll to stop it from descending into the turgid depths of Screaming Trees.
The delight of Damon yelping “Woo Hoo” like Julian and Sandy…high camp for the post-Cool Britannia generation.
Like “Popscene” on crack.
Yeah yeah mother funkers.
On Your Own – June 16th, 1997
Want to hear a theory?
Don’t worry, I’m not a flat earther.
Or one of those blokes who lurk in the darkest corners of Twitter rambling about how “they” knew…like a character from a lost episode of “The X Files”; a show that has a lot to answer for in my opinion.
No, my theory is this…
“Song 2” and “On Your Own” were not actually new songs at all.
“Song 2” is “Popscene”.
“On Your Own” is “Girls and Boys”.
Like directors going over their old films and delivering a directors cut.
Except, unlike say George Lucas, they haven’t gone back to two perfect things and dumped a dumpster of dump all over them…no, they have revisited the themes and notions of their earlier work and produced something more in tune with where they are/were.
“On Your Own” takes us away from the sex mad, Manumission attending, Club 18-30, sexually transmitted diseases on legs and turns attention towards the sorts of people who think not washing or wearing shoes and “travelling” to Goa is the height of spiritual enlightenment.
It is a trippier, hippier, dippier and better observational pop song…a better song than its little brother?
I reckons so.
It may not be much of a theory, it may not be a theory at all but it’s all I’ve got.
Take it or leave it.
M.O.R – September 15th, 1997
While attention at the time focused on the “tribute” paid to “Boys Keep Swinging” and “Fantastic Voyage” from Bowie’s “Lodger” the real treat for me with “M.O.R” is that it could have cropped up on “Modern Life is Rubbish” without anyone batting an eyelid.
It has a whiff of “Coping” about it to my cloth ears so we can add it as further supporting evidence for my “theory” about Blur revisiting earlier songs and doing them better!
The fourth single from “Blur” it was also the only one not to make it into the top ten, which is a terrible shame because it is my favourite of the four.
It wasn’t just the song that “borrowed” from other artists…the video, with the band being played by stuntmen, was quite similar, thematically, to “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys. I’m fairly sure that at least one person in Blur would have been a fan of the Beastie’s (cough…Graham Coxon…cough) and the heist gone bad film is close enough to the video for “Sabotage” for me to claim it as an influence.
For me the four singles from “Blur” are the best and most consistent in their career up to this point.
There isn’t a “Sunday Sunday”.
There isn’t a “Parklife”.
There isn’t a “Country House”.
The silly has been jettisoned.
The cor blimey geezerisms have been consigned to the dustbin.
The narrow set of influences have been expanded.
The boo, hiss, ya-boo, sucks to you anti-Americanisms have gone.
For the first time Blur have chosen all of the right songs as singles.
For the first time the quality and the legacy of the music is front and centre…and not the relentless pursuit of “hits”.
These are not the songs of boys who like girls who like boys etc etc etc.
These are the songs of a band looking, again, to (re)define themselves and to (re)shape the musical landscape. Other bands couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do the same…fearful that their own limitations may be exposed or that the public wouldn’t buy it or buy into it. Blur had no such fears…they had reached the top of the pops and I am not entirely sure that they had liked what they had seen from up there, or what they saw in the mirror at that point. They had two choices at that point…keep on doing the do or change. They chose to change and while a certain other band from the Britpop battles may have gone on to sell more records, there can be no denying that from this point on there was only one winner when it came to creativity, risks and exploration.