Death Metal

Every young boy needs to go through a heavy metal phase, rediculous t-shirts included. I have fond memories of my days as a headbanger, even going so far as to occasionally listen to some of the better records released at the time, most notably Death’s Individual Thought Patterns, Pestilence’s Spheres and Morbid Angel’s Covenant. Funnily enough it’s my discovery of Blur (and to a slightly lesser extend Suede and, erm, The Lemonheads) that spelled the end of this spell, and prompted me to go get a haircut.

Blur and Death Metal crossed paths again during the sessions for 13 when Blur recorded a 30 minute song called “Death Metal”, probably inspired by Graham Coxon who claimed to be something of a fan of the genre. Whether the song’s got Damon grunting and Dave using double bass drum or whether it’s just a title remains unsure. The chances of it ever seeing the light of day are about as big as England winning the European Championship football this summer. Not impossible (just ask Denmark), but very very slim.

Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 7:59 am  Comments (1)  

So You

Sounding like it could grind to a halt at any time, 1999’s “So You” brought together post-Britpop Blur past and future like no song from the era. Its pleasantly underproduced sounds recall the Blur-era recordings while also hinting at Think Tank‘s more mellow moments. There’s more than a hint of Gorillaz in the melodica solo, while the words seeming to detail a relationship breakdown echo those of “No Distance Left To Run”. Which it is a b-side of.

Sadly, this song wasn’t ready when Blur released the singles boxset so the only way to obtain it is by buying the single. Or maybe it was ready, but wasn’t released when it could’ve been so as not to take away from the single’s sales. In either case, it’s an absolutely essential little jewel that deserves far more listeners than your average bonus non-album track.

Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 12:12 pm  Comments (1)  

Music Is My Radar

For their greatest hits compilation, Blur had already completed “Black Book” when “Music Is My Radar” came around. A minimalist dance-but-not-really song, including what one reviewer unfavourably called “Graham Coxon farting over a basic track”, it was destined to become known as the token new song to lure in completists… except those completists could have just picked up the single, so some live recordings were added to a limited edition of about five million copies of The Best Of as well.

The only time the song has been mentioned since was when Think Tank was released. Reviewers trying to convince themselves and readers that Graham leaving was a good thing pointed towards this “lacklustre last recording by the original band” (before, ironically, raving about said album’s “Battery In Your Leg”, a song featuring Graham and often singled out as a highlight).

But all this is rather too cynical for what’s ultimately a fun song about dancing and nonsense. Famously contains lines about Tony Allen getting Damon to put on his dancing shoes, well over half a decade before Tony drummed for The Good, The Bad & The Queen.

The promo including the band looking monumentally bored some six years before Bloc Party’s “The Prayer”, in the meantime, is unique in that it’s Blur only video not to have been included on a DVD release.

Published in: on August 3, 2007 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  

All Your Life

From the band’s let’s-see-if-we-can-get-away-with-stealing-from-Bowie phase. They were unmasked in the case of “M.O.R.”, but last time I looked the credits of “All Your Life” still read Albarn/Coxon/James/Rowntree. A miracle, because the verses of the song share more than a few similarities with the great Dave’s “Oh, You Pretty Things!”. Had it been included on Blur, instead of the “Beetlebum” single, surely two songs on that album would’ve partly been creditted to Bowie. All that should not obscure the fact that “All Your Life” is a marvellous song, and another contender for a b-sides compilation, should there ever be one.

Lyrically, it reads as a goodbye to the Britpop-scene:

Put a new t-shit on and wash my face in beer
Fall through the crowd and disappear

Hold my breath and count to a hundred and ten
And back up the hill to start again

Oh England, my love, you lost me
Made me look a fool

A change of scenery after the highly succesful but emotionally draining year of 1995 kept the band together, and Damon sane. “It was only whilst being in Iceland overlooking the Arctic Ocean and the glorious mountains that I had a very different feeling towards creating songs”, he said, and the line about going up the hill to start it again may reflect that (though it may also be yet another Bowie reference, but admittedly that would be pushing).

In any case, as far as b-sides go, they don’t come more essential than “All Your Life”, a four minute summary of what happened to Damon (and Blur) in 1996, the year they were on the receiving end of much ridicule as that other band involved in the Britpop wars grew to rediculous size. How fortunes have changed since then.

Published in: on July 11, 2007 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  

French Song

This weird little instrumental, which consists of about half a dozen of riffs pasted together, that goes on and on and on for about eight minutes was a bonus track with “Tender”. Its closest companion in Blur’s catalogue is probably “Berserk” (with the accelerating pace from “Intermission tagged on for good measure), but whereas that song appeared to be on acid this one has had a few too many Bacardi Breezers. Or maybe even more tellingly: the 1991 song borrowed from Syd-era Floyd, while bits of riffs from “French Song” sound not unlike “Bend Me, Shape Me” by The American Breed.

What’s French about it? Fucked if I know.

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cowboy Song

Go onto Soulseek or a similar file-sharing program, type in the words “Blur” and “rare”, and you’ll find a song named “Cowboy Song (rare!)” by Radiohead featuring Blur. The problem with wrong tags in a nutshell; the song is neither rare (it’s on the soundtrack for Dead Man On Campus, a film I’ve never bothered to watch), nor do Radiohead appear to have anything to do with it. Still, many Radiohead fans seem to have placed it in some folder with unreleased tracks such as “Nude” or the actually quite lovely “Lift”.

This is about Blur however, and Blur had “Cowboy Song” released on the aforementioned soundtrack in 1998, the year between Blur and 13, and that’s exactly how the song sounds. It has the same almost lo-fi feel that most of the former album’s songs have, but with some clear references to what was to follow, most notably some effects that echo the ones that can be heard on “Battle” and the synth-line that drives “All We Want”, one of Blur’s best b-sides, pops up here about halfway through.

Even if “Cowboy Song” is clearly a minor song by a band just hanging around the station for a meal and a cup of coffee before they hop back on the train to Thirteenville where magic awaits, this song deserves much better than to be known as a Radiohead song.

Published in: on June 11, 2007 at 1:38 pm  Comments (8)