Though largely under appreciated in the States for much of its career, British rock quartet Blur was one of the biggest and most versatile bands the UK, produced in the 1990s and into the current decade before going on hiatus in 2003. With seven studio albums to its name over a 12-year span, plus a best-of album that was released three years before its last LP, 2003s Think Tank, there has yet to be a compilation that encompasses highlights from all of Blur’s works. Until now.
The Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide To Blur (Capitol/EMI) collection, which hit stores during the heart of summer in late July, features 25 tracks spread over two discs. It contains most of the usual hot tracks that put Blur on the map, including “Girls And Boys,” “Song 2” and “She’s So High.” But the band members themselves selected the tracks for both discs. Thus, there are some serious gems here, but in a couple places, curious choices as well.
Not so unpredictably, CD 1 starts out with the opening track from Blur’s most popular – at least here in America - self-titled 1997 album, “Beetlebum.” Graham Coxon’s zigzag guitars carry the core of this easygoing pop song that also has musical refrains and chord progressions underneath singer Damon Albarn’s falsetto that are not too different stylistically from British rivals Oasis.
Of course, there’s no mistaking these two seminal groups - Blur was the more consistent and musically adventurous force. One need not look any further than the inventive (and lyrically regret-filled) “Death Of A Party,” another ’97 self-titled album essential track on CD 1 to prove this point. It features some of the leanest and meanest Coxon guitar sounds in Blur’s catalogue. And its scary-to-bright melodies – the verses being spooky and choruses more pleasant-sounding – go back and forth like they were always meant to be together. It’s bloody brilliant, as British lads might say.