I have a confession to make: the first time I listened to 13 I was horrified. This was not the band I’d known and loved ever since seeing them perform “For Tomorrow” on MTV in 1993. I even went so far as to give my copy, the not so limited edition in the white box, away to my sister who was also a Blur fan, and short on cash. I didn’t need it.

Soon after something began to gnaw at me. What was that song that sounded a bit like “Sing”? Not wanting to ask my sister if I could please have my CD back I rushed to a second hand store and got myself a new copy. In a jewel case, because limited edition Blur CD’s kind of suck (ask anyone that has Think Tank with the red booklet; they may as well have produced it with factorymade scratches). I rushed home, put headphones on and skipped to song 5.

“People asked us what it was like being in Blur last year… 1992”, Damon says at one point in the fabulous tourfilm Starshaped, before dropping a deafening silence. “As you can see, nobody has anything to say about it”. It certainly wasn’t an easy time for them. Their best single to date flopped, they recorded a great album only for the record company to tell them to go back into the studio, and to make matters worse a new band was getting all the publicity. The band of Damon’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. One song that was written during this rotten year was “1992”, but it remained unreleased until 1999.

13 is often said to be about Damon and Justine Frischmann splitting up (though bassist Alex has since stated that the others’ relationships were also going to the dogs), and this song to me always seems like a sort of “No Distance Left To Run Begins”; here there’s no closure, maybe not even actual sadness, but, to quote one Bob Dylan, someone going out of his mind with a pain that stops and starts. Repeated through the song is the line, “you loved my bed, you took the other instead”, instantly sparking rumours that Justine had gotten back with Suede’s Brett Anderson. It’s over, but he doesn’t know yet that he doesn’t want to see her.

The music reflects the nightmare in the lyrics. As noted above, there are quite a few similarities with “Sing”; monotonous piano, bass notes shot from all over the neck and a simple and steady drumbeat. It’s the guitar that gets to star in the song’s most awe-inspiring moment though; feedback builds and builds, and there’s no doubt something is about to happen. It builds some more, disappears completely for a moment, and then comes jumping out of the darkness, screeching like the devil has actually taken possession of its soul… and then it falls and collapses into a thousand little pieces, sparkling beautifully but leaving a mess all the same. But what a gorgeous mess it is!

Published in: on June 2, 2007 at 7:16 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great description – partly because of my location (small town Ontario) at the time I first got into Blur via Blur and 13, so I can’t say I was horrified, but I’ve always loved this song and “Sing.” I’m glad someone’s decided to tackle Blur for one of these, when I update my blog on Monday I’ll add you into the links…

  2. It’s funny, I adore all of Blur’s albums with the exception of 13 – I just can’t get into it. 1992 does nothing for me; the whole record, generally, sounds like a pro-tooled mess, and Damon’s ear for a melody seems to have temporarily deserted him. It’s perhaps significant that Graham’s influence was greater on this record, and surely not coincidental that his Golden D LP was released the next year and was similarly directionless. Plus the lyrics on 1992 are awful – ‘an agreement of your bombast’. What?

  3. I laughed for hours on end about the “factory made scratches” on my cd in the red booklet case…

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