Despite the best efforts from U.S. music mags to try and recreate the same Blur vs. Oasis rivalry that their British counterparts had been able to set up and milk for years, the competition never really caught on over here. In fact, Brit Pop as a genre never really made as much as an impact in the U.S. as it did in Europe. But for those of us who did give it a shot, the sound was just as satisfying as hearing The Kinks for the first time.
Of the media-generated rivalry, Oasis may have had the earlier hits in the U.S., but they were quickly overshadowed here by their own dick-ishness, the battling brothers (probably the only thing they managed to glean from The Kinks) and the over-the top-boasts that they could hardly back up about being the heirs to The Beatles. Blur, four polite British lads that kept to themselves, meanwhile, kept their heads down and simply let their music do the talking for them. EMI recently released two-CD box sets of all seven albums, including a trove of unreleased and hard to find demos, singles and live tracks (you can still hear the simultaneous squeals of Anglophiles across the globe when these releases were announced) as a reminder of just how great a band Blur was (is?).
The collection starts with the very British Leisure and Modern Life is Rubbish, but it was their third effort, the brilliant Parklife, when the band really started finding their sound. Songs like the title track and “Girls & Boys” were enough to make us forget about the Gallagher Brothers and finally concentrate on that other British band NME was always going on and on about. The band continued to churn out one great album after another, but it wasn’t until 1997’s self-titled record (their fifth release) that they got their most traction in the U.S. with “Song 2”, appropriately enough the album’s second single, with the addictive – still today – “woo hoo” hook.
Two albums followed, 13 and Think Tank before the band the band went on hiatus. The group has since reunited for a handful of shows including playing at Hyde Park as part of the Olympics this summer, and to record a couple of songs, but the long-promised comeback album may never surface. But thanks to EMI’s new box sets, we’ve got plenty of music to keep us company while the band debates their future.
Blur – Leisure/Modern Life is Rubbish/Parklife/The Great Escape/Blur/13/Think Tank: Box Sets/EMI/2012