Trouble In The Message Centre

When in 2007 some mysterious fellow named demodude leaked some 1993 Parklife demo’s onto the net, Blurfans were understandably excited. It had been a very long time since we had heard anything new. What the demo’s proved was that at the time the band knew exactly what they were doing. The released versions didn’t differ too much from the infant installments, and when they did they benefitted from the additional work, with the possible exception of Alex’s “Far Out”.

The biggest improvement was made on “Trouble In The Message Centre”, or “Trouble” as the working title appears to have been (at least, that’s how the track was tagged, and as there is no mention of centres, message or otherwise, in the original lyrics I’m assuming this to be a case of correct tagging). Most of the published version was already in place, but without the synths toying with the main melody and awkward lyrics about someone with no personality, the demo misses anything resembling a drive to grab a listener’s attention.

New lyrics were written around the 1993 holiday season, if Parklife‘s booklet, where the words written on a hotel bill were reprinted (as was Kevin Godley’s phone number… he was in the running to produce the video for “Girls & Boys”, and had to change his number shortly after the release of Parklife). The lyrics are said to have been inspired by the keys on the hotel telephone, while the line about just striking it “softly away from the body” came from a book of matches next to the phone. The former is presumably true, but I doubt the latter statement due to the fact that said line was present in the demo version too, albeit far less effectively so.

However, as is often the case in Blur’s discography, it’s wordless vocals that make the song immediately catchy. Simple it may seem, but it’s harder to come up with an original and catchy la-la-sequence than the stream-of-consciousness rubbish or 6th form poetry that are too often confused with depth and poetry.

Strangely enough producer Stephen Street didn’t like this song. Maybe producing The Cranberries had affected his judgement a little. Just listening to their music for 2 minutes is like having a flock of dementors flying over at close range. One can onl imagine the horror of being holed up with them at Azkaban studio’s in Limerick for a few months

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Published in: on May 15, 2008 at 5:00 pm  Comments (3)  

M.O.R.

When Vox Magazine reviewed Blur as the record began hitting the stores they noted that David Bowie’s sollicitors might want to listen to “M.O.R.”, as the song had previously been employed as “Boys Keep Swinging”. Not long after, the song’s credits had the names of Bowie and Brian Eno added to them. Fair enough. The two songs do have a thing or two in common.

Lyrically, “M.O.R.” appears to deal with Blur’s career trajectory, while also being a statement of intent. Yes, their edge had been missing a bit in recent times, but this time around they’re taking no prisoners. Getting the popular vote doesn’t weigh up to artistic intents. “Fall into fashion, fall out again”, Damon sings before blatantly claiming that they “stick together, cos it never ends”. Really?

For the video four stuntmen would be wearing masks of the band’s faces while doing all sorts of dangerous shit on fast vehicles. Unfortunately, it turned out the masks looked nothing like any of the bandmembers and instead the stuntmen did their tricks with balaclava’s over their faces. We know they’re supposed to be the bandmembers because of the nifty anagrams we’ve been given at the start of the video: Morgan C Hoax, Lee Jaxsam, Trevor Dewane, and Dan Abnormal (of The Great Escape and Elastica fame).

Two different versions of the track were released for the UK and US singles, confusingly both called “Road Version”. The American one is the faster one used in the video, while the UK got something not too far removed from what was already on the album. It was, at number 15, the band’s lowest charting single in their home country since “End Of A Century” three years earlier, and wasn’t included on The Best Of (although a live version was on the not so limited edition’s CD2).

Published in: on May 13, 2008 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Tell Me Tell Me

Recorded when Blur were still called Seymour, “Tell Me Tell Me” is a trashy little number not a million miles removed from the (slightly) better known “Fried”. Loud, fast and about some chick with a chip on her shoulder, it can hardly be called a highlight in the band’s oeuvre, but is enjoyable all the same because of the abandon with which it’s performed. Particularly of note are the aiaiai’s and barking sounds that Damon produces to complement the sound of guitars being manhandled. It’s got more in common with what Blur would be working on in 1997 than the Madchesteresque sounds that were in the immediate future. This little curio was ultimately released in 1993 as one of “Sunday Sunday”‘s many b-sides.

Published in: on May 9, 2008 at 10:20 am  Comments (2)  

Country House

Back when I was still young and didn’t have a job I had to save up my pocket money to buy music. Three weeks saving would get me one album. One week’s allowance bought a single. I had just taken up the hobby of smoking cigarettes in abandoned buildings however, so not a lot of new records made my bedroom (this was the time when for the prize of one CD Single you could buy 3 cartons of Camel Lights… how times have changed). When “Country House” and “Roll With It” were released this caused some trouble. Which one should I buy first?

As I lived in Holland it wasn’t a case of supporting one band so they could get to Number 1 in the charts next week. Neither band would even dent the Top 40. I liked Blur better, but it wasn’t that easy. My sister’s two favourite bands were Take That and Blur. Buying “Roll With It” would annoy her no end. For any 16 year old boy enough reason to go up the hill backwards, so to speak.

Well, everybody knows that Blur’s single went to the top of the charts in their homecountry, and that Oasis had to take the silver medal. Then some other stuff happened, I’ll spare my dear reader the usual cliché’s, and these days Damon is an absolute genius, Graham a veritable solo artist, Alex an interesting and ever funny jack of all trades, Dave, ermmm, a very good Dave, and Oasis release the same record with some slight variations ad infinitum, while giving enough priceless interviews to justify their being around. Which makes the 14 August battle all the more silly.

But Christ, what glorious silliness! People taking sides, newsreports, the video’s on MTV every hour, a thousand other bands riding the waves made by the giants… a genuinely great time for music (and clothes!).

Hindsight has it that neither “Roll With It” nor “Country House” were much cop. Bollocks. The former has grown tired indeed, but Blur’s song is still an excellent popsong. It’s got everything, from pleasant verses to an excellent singalong chorus, a sad undercurrent that bursts into the foreground long enough to give the song genuine emotional weight, and a lyrical nod to “Morning Glory” that may or may not be a dig at Oasis (or Jamiroquai). Yes, it even has mystery.

Unfortunately, all members of the band with the exception of Alex seem to have disowned the song and its accompanying video, and its value has been in decline ever since. We, the people, in the spirit of Max Brod owe it to our children to preserve this monumental creation, and protect it from its creators.

Published in: on May 9, 2008 at 8:28 am  Leave a Comment