Blur were, by the time they came to release “Coffee and TV”, on a run of five of their best singles…all killah, no fillah. The frothy “delights” of “The Great Escape” singles had been washed away with songs that were darker, sharper, purer and more careful. Each one had been the sort of song your favourite band would release…which was fortunate because Blur were a favourite band of so many people.
Up to this point a Blur singles collection would have you hitting “skip” on more than occasion…I don’t want to listen to “Bang” or “Sunday Sunday” or “Country House” and you might not want to hear, well, “Bang” or “Sunday Sunday” or “Country House” either. And none of us wanted to hear “Charmless Man” ever again.
In “Coffee and TV” they continued the run of pop perfection and, arguably, released their finest single to date.
Coffee + TV – June 28th, 1999
“Sociability…is hard enough for me.”
“Take me away from this big bad world…”
It is astonishing to think that the same group of musicians who produced a certain number one single could, within five years, be capable of releasing a single like “Coffee and TV”.
Out had gone the faux mockney “charms”.
Out had gone the forced joviality.
Out had gone the garish technicolour.
In had come a tender, heartfelt, honesty in the vocal (one of very few times when Graham has taken this role).
In had come reality.
In had come the natural, realistic, darker, hues of the ordinary life.
Where the “Life” trilogy saw Blur as a Saturday night blockbuster at the local multiplex…here we see the band as Ken Loach down the local arthouse kino.
You need to have both in your life, of course you do…I want to munch popcorn and see giant robots beat each other into submission just as much as the next person. But I also want to see real life reflected back at me…because out of that experience I am capable of better engaging with who I am.
While “Coffee and TV” deals, I suspect, with the rather unique set of challenges Graham Coxon was dealing with at this time the secret to its place as a firm favourite of anyone with even a passing interest in the band lies in three things; the bouncy pop melody that drives it, the video (more of that in a bit) and the fact that everyone, everyone, has felt like “one of many zeros”.
We all like to believe that, despite the ordinariness of our mundane existence, that there is something special about us…some undiscovered talent, some ability, some deeper understanding, that, once unveiled, will propel us from the fringes to the very heart of things.
The truth is that we, fine, I am not all that special at all.
I am just the same as everybody else.
A complicated mess of emotions.
Desperately seeking…something, someone; maybe Susan?
You’re all terribly well adjusted and happy and successful.
I’m very happy for you.
The video for “Coffee and TV” is, as everyone knows, an example of the pop video elevating itself from illustration to art…from Noel’s House Party to The Office…from Michael Bay to Ozu.
A little milk carton makes his way to the city in search of a missing in action Graham Coxon (lost to the murky world of rock and roll)…danger lurks around every corner and eventually he finds love…only to have it snatched, brutally, from him…then he finds Graham and reunites him with his family…before coming to a sticky end.
It is a silly, funny, scary, clever, artistic and brilliantly produced short film and serves to remind you of both how risible the Damien Hirst video for “Country House” was and of how brilliant music video can be when done with love.
It was now becoming very clear that Blur were moving.
Moving away from one thing and towards another thing.
No desire to tread water or to rehash what had gone before.
They were looking at new things.
They were listening to new things.
They were Hell bent on change.