Own It or Disown It: #251: Blur, Blur

OwnItorDisownIt

The beloved British rock band's self-titled album turns twenty years old this week.

Blur represents the prime reason why self-titling an album should be reserved for the debut. Pop quiz: how many albums did Blur put out before Blur? Going into this week, I thought for sure the answer was two, accounting for their debut (Leisure) and their breakout (Parklife), but the answer is actually four, with my forgetting that Modern Life is Rubbish and The Great Escape preceding their self-titled. I’d argue that utilizing such a naming convention mistakenly gives the impression that Blur were a rookie act that didn’t know what they were doing, but having given it a few spins, I think that’s the impression Blur were looking to capitalize on.

Blur is the rare late-90s alt-rock album with a varied sound. Opener “Beetlebum” is a softly chugging ditty that crashes into “Song 2”, which is still probably playing in a commercial airing today. Later, it gets into sounds that are more typical of a psyche-rock record, and later still (the album is almost an hour long), they channel angry Primal Scream, aka best Primal Scream. It all makes for a record that feels like a pretty solid demo tape; sign us, Universal, we can fit into any niche you want us to fill, all we need is money. Furthering that illusion, of course, is that the album is self-titled, which I feel the need to point out because the American press was surprisingly lax on this.

For as varied as Blur‘s sound is, I can’t say that much of it is engaging. “Song 2” might be interesting contrast to “Beetlebum”, but that doesn’t mean either song is good; indeed, “Beetlebum” is a monotonous slog and whatever novelty “Song 2” might have possessed has since disintegrated over the years. So, too, have the majority of sonic experiments not aged well, with only the crunch of “Theme of Retro” and “Death of a Party” working for me. The best of the rest made me go “well, that was interesting” rather than “well, that was good”, and that’s fine if you’re a band that is still trying to work out the kinks of your sound rather than seasoned vets trying to pass yourselves off as newcomers. Blur isn’t a terrible album, but Blur had already made better albums and would go on to make better albums than this, so there’s no reason to return to this one unless you need to hear everything Albarn and Coxon have ever touched.

VERDICT: DISOWN

Read past editions of Own It or Disown It.

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