Blur Plays “This Is A Low”

Blur ParklifeListen to this track by deliberately British, Brit-pop rock foursome Blur. It’s “This Is A Low”, a deep cut from their now-classic 1994 record Parklife, and also to be featured on Blur: the Best of compilation as chosen by the band themselves, even if it wasn’t originally a single.

Among other things, this song concerns itself with that most British of subjects, the weather. More to the point, it references another aspect of British life, which is The Shipping Forecast. That program is a BBC4 radio broadcast that is widely listened to internationally, and in the wee hours of the morning, accompanied by the theme music “Sailing By”.

In British culture, nothing says “I can’t sleep” more than tuning into the Shipping Forecast, which can be heard at 00:48 and again at 05:20. Many of the locations in the song are referenced in the broadcast; The Bay of Biscay, Dogger, Tyne, Forth, Cromarties, and Malin are all Shipping Forecast regions.

So, besides a cultural obsession with the weather, what else lies behind this song, a stalwart live cut and a fast favourite among band members and fans alike? Read more

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Blur reform, interviewed by the Guardian

Take a read of this article from The Guardian newspaper about a newly reformed Blur.

In an age where a lot of bands are getting back together, this one feels a bit different, going beyond the usual rock clichés of ‘we’ve put the past behind us’, and ‘the music is bigger than our petty squabbles’.  For one thing, the word nostalgia isn’t a dirty word.

It’s admitted in the article that the period when the band made its best work were the among the best times of their lives, particularly kicking off with their 1993 album Modern Life Is Rubbish, through to the heady days of 1994’s Parklife, when they captured the attention of an entire nation.  That the Brit-Pop hangover albums 13 and the self-titled Blur, not to mention the very rocky Think Tank sessions in 2001 are still fresh in the minds of each member, it seems to be their early period that stands out for them:

(Blur bassist Alex James)  “That was when we really discovered ourselves and stood up for ourselves. We were just young and … Not rich, but we did have everything we wanted. All we wanted was to get drunk and play our guitars really loud. And we traveled round the world and were … Just young men, I suppose.”

Article writer John Harris muses that this may be a common experience for many, given that the period roughly between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the 9/11 attacks in New York City in 2001 were a period of relative stability.  There was a certain feeling of innocence during those times, when it seemed like a good time to be young, in a band, or just in being a music fan.  This is certainly true in my own case.  Yet, despite this, the article gives the impression that this sense of nostalgia is in context.

 

Life hasn’t stopped for each member.  Singer Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon still have wandering musical interests of their own.  Bassist Alex James is a an active columnist for a number of British publications. And drummer Dave Rowntree is studying to be a solicitor with a mind to become an Member of the British Parliament!

The band are currently rehearsing for upcoming live appearances, most notably in Hyde Park on July 2 and 3 of this year, and the Glastonbury Festival.  There’s no word on a new album, currently.

Enjoy!

Former Blur Guitarist Graham Coxon Performs ‘Standing on My Own Again’

Here’s a clip of unsung Brit-pop architect and understated, yet imminently skilled guitarmeister Graham Coxon with “Standing On My Own Again” as taken from his Love Travels At Illegal Speeds album from 2006.

Graham Coxons interest in American indie rock allowed his group Blur to make a quiet exit from the Brit-Pop ghetto.  His continuing interest in bands like Pavement and The Pixies continues in his solo career.
Graham Coxon's interest in American indie rock allowed his group Blur to make a quiet exit from the Brit-Pop ghetto by 1997. His continuing interest in bands like Pavement and The Pixies continues in his solo career.

Coxon of course is known for his work with Blur, having come up with instantly recognizable and extremely ‘hooky’ guitar figures on singles like “There’s No Other Way”, “Parklife”,”Song 2″, and others.  But, by 2002, Coxon was restless, wanting to stretch out on his own.  His initial solo efforts had a decidedly experimental feel, leaving behind the right angles of pop structures for music that was a little less expected from a songwriter and guitarist from a pop band known for their accessible singles.

Some critics noted that Coxon was resisting his own instincts for pop writing on these records.  But, by the time he’d recorded this tune and the album, he had clearly embraced them again.  His touchstones of Kinks-influenced writing, mitigated by the intensity of statesmanlike punk-pop were once again allowed to take centre stage.  And yet, this isn’t a safe record either – it rocks, and on its own terms.

For more information, check out the official Graham Coxon website

And for more music, there’s always the Graham Coxon MySpace page.

Tales of Brit-Pop – Blur perform “Parklife”

Here’s a clip of Blur doing their song “Parklife” from the 1994 album of the same name, Parklife .

Blur ParklifeThis song is one of my favourites by a band I consider to be a great singles band. Phil Daniels, most famous for his portrayal as Jimmy in 1979’s Quadrophenia, is the perfect choice as the narrator of an Eastend wideboy’s tale of simple pleasures in a narrow world of his own. And guitarist Graham Coxon’s opening guitar figure is genius in its simplicity. In short, a memorable pop song.

The song and the album of course was released during the so-called Brit-pop era, when bands like Blur, along with Suede, Supergrass, Pulp (who had actually been around since 1983) and Oasis were making a splash in their native country. All tried to break America at the time, and all but Oasis failed, although many found select audiences. I think this is because the thing which typified the scene (if there even was one beyond the music press buzz) was an unabashed celebration of all things British – British accents, British cultural references, and British musical influences like the Kinks and the Small Faces, bands from the 60s who carved a similar path, and who had similarly select success Stateside.

The scene was of course short lived, and the respective bands either fizzled out entirely (Elastica, Suede, Echobelly, etc), or transformed themselves into something other than cheeky chappies (Supergrass and Blur). It’s arguable that the bands who are associated with Britpop couldn’t get a foothold in America because they refused to Americanize. But, I don’t think it’s entirely beyond reason that this was the case. I think this ultimately caused most Americans to scratch their heads, wondering if these guys even knew how to speak American.