This one might have been one of the most successful transitions in regards of a successful set of new features being grafted to an already huge, already cool, already universally acclaimed band going 8008LE55 or whatever I was calling it at the start of the week.
Blur genuinely did always have a dance element to their music. You’ve only got to hear their early single There’s No Other Way to hear one of the biggest Indie floor fillers of all time. They flirted with remixes and stuff before they were a household name and then spent their biggest period eschewing all of that progressiveness for a fun pastiche look at Englishness that took in The Jam, Ian Dury and The Kinks. It was a complete riot, but it was also kind of limited. The mock cockney knees up of Parklife and Stereotypes was turning the band into just that. Stereotype cheeky chappies who could follow in Madness’ Dr. Martens clad footsteps if they played their cards right after Britpop was over and find a nice little earner of a life on the cabaret circuit.
There was always more promise than that in Blur. So album number five pushed the envelope. They ditched the Lock Stock stuff and remembered that they’d all been to art college. Blur the self-titled album which gave the world Beetlebum and the mega hit Song 2 also featured the brilliantly disruptive On Your Own.
“Holy man tiptoed his way across the Ganges the sound of magic music in his ears, shiny shell suits on, and drinking lemonade”
The stuttering broken riffs and faulty downloaded percussion breaks punctuate the US College rock melody to make it sound more like modern UK Grime or obscure European Techno than Indie Pop. And the lyrics look like something google translate has struggled with from English to Chinese and back to English
“Now, I’ve got a funny feeling which I bought mail order from a man in a tee-pee in California he said he once was that great game show performer”
Lyrically it becomes a weird call and response Chinese whisper going around the band. Each one calling out the… Can we call it a chorus? Calling out the phrases at differing speeds and cadences.
“So take me home, don’t leave me alone I’m not that good, but I’m not that bad, No psycho killer, hooligan guerilla I dream to riot, oh you should try it”
Albarn all but raps some of his vocals, but not in a flowing swagger. He hollers in his broadest Estuary Twang
“Well, we all go happy day-glo in the discos the sound of magic music in our brains, someone stumbles to the bathroom with the horrors says ‘Lord, give me time, for I’ve jumped into space’ jumped into space”
Just as the cut and splice studio trickery is messing with the music, Damon is messing with the importance of syllables in words like “Hooligan” and “gorilla” as he spits his bars his way.
This was indie rock as high art. Held in the same regard as The Fall, Pavement and Massive Attack all at the same time. Blur were never the cheeky cartoon band again. Damon had to form Gorillaz to scratch that itch.