Earlier this week, Brit-pop's finest Blur released Blur 21, an exhaustive box set featuring expanded versions of all seven of their studio albums, bonus discs of demos and outtakes and a few DVDs. It's over 20 hours of music. Blur has long represented something very particular in my life whatever the time (Damon Albarn is the first guy I ever allowed myself to acknowledge being attracted to) and with this insurmountable deluge of media, now is no exception.
I've been listening to them a lot in the past few weeks and have decided that "To the End," from their brilliant third album, 1994's Parklife, is my favorite of all of their songs. As with "Tender," another favorite of mine, this song illustrates their supreme mastery of the bittersweet sensibility. Though it's about an irreconcilable breakup, it sounds like a love song, a marriage of Motown and a ballroom dance.
When they were great, they were fucking great and constantly conversant with their past. They out-Brit-popped themselves each time with the early trilogy of Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape. And then, they killed their sound, added heaping doses of Pavement influence and feedback and the result was their crowning glory, their still poppy-as-fuck fifth album Blur. And then they killed that and turned out the jam-based, William Orbit-produced, almost-as-brilliant 13. Their very deliberate progression makes taking in their work as a whole via Blur 21 that much more rewarding, even if the sheer volume of material is daunting.
If you care at all about Blur and haven't seen the 2010 film No Distance Left To Run, which documents their 2009 reunion performances, what are you doing with your life?