51. Blur – Blur

Blur - Blur

51. Blur – Blur (1997)

1. Beetlebum
2. Song 2
3. Country Sad Ballad Man
4. M.O.R.
5. On Your Own
6. Theme from Retro
7. You’re So Great
8. Death of a Party
9. Chinese Bombs
10. I’m Just a Killer for Your Love
11. Look Inside America
12. Strange News from Another Star
13. Movin’ On
14. Essex Dogs (including ‘Interlude’)

Who is/are Blur?

Well, this has been pretty much covered in the previous posts, so if you’re still not sure, let’s head to Instagram (@blurofficial); “New album ‘The Magic Whip’ out now. po.st/iTMW”.

Great.

Why did you buy this album?

My wife bought this album as, by now, she was a dyed in the wool Blur fan.

I bought this from one of the Manchester second-hand CD shops once I remembered how much I enjoyed listening to it when it came out, most notably laid on the floor at a friend’s house* late on a Friday night…

What’s it like?

This is the Blur album that got me interested in Blur as a band, rather than as one of those groups that popped up with a catchy single every now and then that wasn’t called Oasis.

Frustrations within the band post-‘The Great Escape‘ led to a change in style, with more input from guitarist Graham Coxon, who was heavily influenced by the American lo-fi bands such as Pavement (hurrah!). In the same way that ‘Modern Life…‘ replaced the baggy sound of ‘Leisure‘ with proto-britpop, ‘Blur‘ replaces the fully-fledged britpop of ‘Parklife‘ and ‘The Great Escape‘ with fuzzy guitars, less narrative lyrics, and a generally more indie sound.

I like indie sound…

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

Very much so. Until my wife introduced me to ‘Modern Life is Rubbish‘, this and ‘13‘ were my favourite Blur albums. It still stands up well, 20 years** after its first release.

Any stand-out tracks?

The Coxon-written ‘You’re So Great‘ has a special place in my affections, as do ‘Beetlebum‘ and ‘Strange News From Another Star‘, though for different reasons.

There is also, of course, ‘Song 2‘…

Rating out of 10?

9/10.

Next up: Blur – 13

*All the seats were taken. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

**Yikes.

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50. Blur – The Great Escape

Blur - The Great Escape

50. Blur – The Great Escape (1995)

1. Stereotypes
2. Country House
3. Best Days
4. Charmless Man
5. Fade Away
6. Top Man
7. The Universal
8. Mr. Robinson’s Quango
9. He Thought of Cars
10. It Could Be You
11. Ernold Same (featuring Ken Livingstone)
12. Globe Alone
13. Dan Abnormal
14. Entertain Me
15. Yuko and Hiro

Who is/are Blur?

Over to their official website; blur.co.uk. (Not blur.com, unless they’ve really branched out recently…)

There’s a whole bio page here, which it seems is about 2 years out of date, but the basics are all there.

Why did you buy this album?

This is another of my wife’s CDs, this one bought when it was released, whilst at the other end of the country, this was the first Blur album I owned!

Admittedly, my copy was on a C90 given to me by a friend, but it meant that I’d at least heard this album when it was out.

What’s it like?

This album was released at the peak of britpop, and spawned 4 top 10 singles in the UK, including ‘Country House‘ which beat Oasis’ ‘Roll With It‘ to number 1, making the front page of newspapers as it did so. Simpler times.

At the time it came out, the music press declared it the best album Blur had ever made (which it’s not), but it is a good mix of tunes. There are some clunkers though, and if I never hear ‘Country House‘ again, I’d be happy.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

It’s okay. It’s not ‘Leisure‘, thank goodness, but it’s no ‘Modern Life…‘ or ‘Parklife‘ either. There are a few good songs on there, but a lot seem to be trying too hard to be quirky.

Having played it to death on cassette at the time it came out, and having heard the later, better, albums, I can’t say I’m in too much of a hurry to hear it again.

Any stand-out tracks?

The Universal‘, despite being co-opted to sell the services of British Gas from 2009, is a brilliant song, and one of two tracks that required careful use of the rewind button on my Walkman*, the other being ‘It Could Be You‘.

There are also notable mentions for ‘Stereotypes‘ and ‘Globe Alone‘.

Rating out of 10?

6/10.

Next up: Blur – Blur

*Other personal stereo systems were available.

49. Blur – Parklife

Blur - Parklife

49. Blur – Parklife (1994)

1. Girls & Boys
2. Tracy Jacks
3. End of a Century
4. Parklife (featuring Phil Daniels)
5. Bank Holiday
6. Badhead
7. The Debt Collector
8. Far Out
9. To the End
10. London Loves
11. Trouble in the Message Centre
12. Clover Over Dover
13. Magic America
14. Jubilee
15. This Is a Low
16. Lot 105

Who is/are Blur?

Having done Wikipedia and Twitter, we head to Facebook; “Musician/Band”.

Thanks Facebook, thanks.

Why did you buy this album?

Another of my wife’s CDs. This copy replaced the, shall we say, unofficial copy given to her by a classmate in the 90s, though she doesn’t know when.

Like the first two albums, ‘Parklife‘ passed me by when it was released, other than hearing the eponymous single everywhere (I even performed all the vocals for a friend’s mock-GCSE performance). Not sure what I was listening to at the time, but later in the year R.E.M.’s ‘Monster‘ would come out, but we’ll save that story for another day.

What’s it like?

It’s the natural development of the themes and sound first presented in ‘Modern Life is Rubbish‘, though now with bigger production values, bigger choruses, and guaranteed singles. It widely considered one of the best albums of 1994 (I prefer Weezer’s ‘Weezer‘ myself), and is also cited as one of the ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die‘.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

Mostly. Breaking with my habit of finding the opening track to often be the best on an album, I cannot stand ‘Girls & Boys‘, despite Alex James’s fantastic bass playing.

Fortunately, the rest of the album picks up from there, and it’s an enjoyable listen. This is essentially Blur doing what they did best.

Any stand-out tracks?

I don’t really have a favourite track on this album, though I am quite fond of ‘Jubilee‘ and ‘This Is A Low‘. Notable mentions also go to ‘Magic America‘ and ‘End of a Century‘.

Rating out of 10?

8/10.

Next up: Blur – The Great Escape

45. Björk – Debut

Bjork - Debut

45. Björk – Debut (1993)

1. Human Behaviour
2. Crying
3. Venus as a Boy
4. There’s More to Life Than This
5. Like Someone in Love
6. Big Time Sensuality
7. One Day
8. Aeroplane
9. Come to Me
10. Violently Happy
11. The Anchor Song

Who is/are Björk?

Wikipedia says; “Björk Guðmundsdóttir, known as Björk, is an Icelandic singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, and actress”.

Sounds busy…

Why did you buy this album?

I’ve always liked Björk’s earlier albums but have never owned any, having heard them through borrowed copies, radio airplay, and, more recently, streaming services, with the exception of the track ‘Hunter‘ (from third album ‘Homogenic‘) that appeared on ‘The X-Files: The Album‘ in 1998. Around this time, given the option, I’d pass over buying her albums in favour of artists I was more familiar with.

Skip forward to 2015ish, and the Eccles Farmers’ Market (held once a month in the middle of Eccles). As part of this market, the local Rotary Club run a second-hand book stall, with free books for kids, and a selection of CDs for 50p each. Most of these CDs were the usual charity shop selection, magazine freebies and classical compilations for the most part, but occasionally a gem turned up. On one particular visit, the Rotary Club managed to get £1.50 out of me for Florence + The Machine’s ‘Lungs‘, and Björk’s ‘Post‘ and ‘Debut‘…

What’s it like?

If I had to pick just one album to describe the sound of the 1990s, I’d choose, well, I’d choose Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer‘. If I had to choose more than one, this would be one of the others.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

Kinda. Other than the singles, I don’t think this album has aged particularly well. I’d still listen to it, but more out of a sense of nostalgia than any particular desire to listen to 90s dance.

Any stand-out tracks?

Play Dead‘, ‘Venus As A Boy‘ and ‘Human Behaviour‘ immediately spring to mind. I quite enjoy ‘There’s More To Life Than This‘ too, but that’s more for the quirky recording, rather than the tune itself.

Rating out of 10?

6/10. Bonus point for ‘Play Dead‘.

Next up: Björk – Post

44. Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen

Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen

44. Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen (1997)

1. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
2. Fair
3. Brick
4. Song for the Dumped
5. Selfless, Cold, and Composed
6. Kate
7. Smoke
8. Cigarette
9. Steven’s Last Night in Town
10. Battle of Who Could Care Less
11. Missing the War
12. Evaporated

Who is/are Ben Folds Five?

According to Wikipedia; “Ben Folds Five are an American alternative rock trio formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina”.

Why did you buy this album?

I think I bought this following the realisation that I didn’t actually own it, despite knowing it well. It’s an album I’d heard a lot since it came out, and always seem to associate it with helping to decorate a friend’s house…

What’s it like?

I’ve heard this described as alt-rock, power-pop, and piano-rock-pop. All of which cover it. Suffice to say, there’s piano playing on there of a style that hadn’t been used since the 1970s, and it’s great.

There’s also a welcome tonal change in the bass, with an upright bass used instead of the expected electric bass guitar. This means that the bass is generally warmer throughout, which especially suits the ballads.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

I do still like this album, though the tracks I liked most first time round are no longer my favourites, with the exception of ‘Brick‘. I’ve less time for previous favourites ‘Song for the Dumped‘ and ‘One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces‘, but will gladly listen to ‘Missing The War‘, ‘Evaporated‘, and ‘Selfless, Cold, and Composed‘ having previously given them short shrift.

I’ve also found I’ve got less patience for some of the stronger language in some of the songs as I’ve got older.

Any stand-out tracks?

Brick‘. Always ‘Brick‘. That song I bought as a CD single when it was released, and still love it to this day.

Notable mentions also go to ‘Steven’s Last Night in Town‘ and ‘Battle of Who Could Care Less‘ as similarly consistent favourites, alongside new favourites ‘Missing The War‘ and ‘Evaporated‘.

Rating out of 10?

7/10.

Next up: Björk – Debut

35. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns

Bat_album cover.jpg

35. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns (2009)

1. Glass
2. Sleep Alone
3. Moon and Moon
4. Daniel
5. Peace of Mind
6. Siren Song
7. Pearl’s Dream
8. Good Love
9. Two Planets
10. Travelling Woman
11. The Big Sleep (featuring Scott Walker)

Who is/are Bat for Lashes?

According to Twitter; ”The Bride‘ is out now: ‘.

Oh.

Why did you buy this album?

As I mentioned in my post about ‘Fur and Gold‘, this was bought following exposure to the singles ‘Prescilla‘ (from ‘Fur and Gold‘), and this album’s ‘Daniel‘.

What’s it like?

It’s a step forward from ‘Fur and Gold’, leaning more towards art-rock/pop more than its successor. There’s a darker feel to this album, and the obvious Kate Bush influences are toned down, but still there.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

I’ve listened to this slightly more than ‘Fur and Gold‘ in the past, but during this listen-through, I’ve found I prefer the latter. Sometimes ‘Two Suns‘ can just be a bit too sonically busy for its own good.

Any stand-out tracks?

Again, Bat for Lashes comes out with a strong opener, in this case ‘Glass‘. ‘Moon and Moon‘ is also a personal favourite. Closing track ‘The Big Sleep‘ gets an honourable mention thanks to the appearance of one Scott Walker…

Rating out of 10?

7/10.

Next up: Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man

34. Bat for Lashes – Fur and Gold

Bat For Lashes - Fur And Gold

34. Bat for Lashes – Fur and Gold (2006)

1. Horse and I
2. Trophy
3. Tahiti
4. What’s a Girl to Do?
5. Sad Eyes
6. The Wizard
7. Prescilla
8. Bat’s Mouth
9. Seal Jubilee
10. Sarah
11. I Saw a Light

Who is/are Bat for Lashes?

Not Barenaked Ladies! I know, I can’t believe it either…

So, to Wikipedia; “Natasha Khan, known professionally as Bat for Lashes, is an English singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.”

Easy.

Why did you buy this album?

I’ve been a dedicated listener of BBC6Music for some time now, and Bat for Lashes seems to be a favourite on that station. Having heard ‘Prescilla‘ fairly frequently around the time this was released, and later ‘Daniel‘ nearly daily once the follow-up album, ‘Two Suns‘, came out, I decided I liked what I heard, and thought I’d give the then two albums that comprised her discography a go.

One visit to Amazon later, and both were shortly in my hands for the price of one…

What’s it like?

Wikipedia describes this album as ‘folktronica’, which is essentially electric folk. Not sure I’d put it that way.

This album comes across as a mix of Kate Bush, Tori Amos, and Björk, yet still with its own unique sound.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

It’s still a good album, though I do occasionally confuse it with the follow up (a curse of the simultaneous two album purchase). There are a couple of tracks that just breeze past me, and it does get a bit tiring more than three listens; unfortunate for the sake of this blog, as I’ve had to hear it quite a bit over the last few weeks*!

Any stand-out tracks?

Opener ‘Horse and I‘ never fails to grab my attention, and I really like ‘Sad Eyes‘ and ‘I Saw A Light‘.

Rating out of 10?

8/10.

Next up: Bat For Lashes – Two Suns

* I’ve been on holiday since the last post. Every time I listened to this album, something else then interrupted. In related news, our eldest son likes the Beatles…