Review : Blur - Midlife: A Beginner's Guide To Blur
MusicomhThe last time Blur had an album out was 2003's Think Tank, and The Best Of Blur was unleashed back in 2000. So when a compilation of carefully selected tunes are put onto a CD, some might cry: "But they've already had a greatest hits album!" Yet with their reformation and upcoming tour, Midlife: A Beginner's Guide To Blur is a timely reminder of one of the most impressive canons of work by a British band in the last 20 years.
Designed for casual listeners familiar only with their singles, Midlife highlights what their many loyal fans well know; that they also have songs that are far removed from radio-friendly formulae. And amazingly, this is the first time the under-appreciated classic 1992 single Popscene has featured on an album.
Wisely this guide is a two-parter, offering listeners a true sense of the band's musical accomplishments, favouring outré numbers amidst a smattering of their famed Britpop-era classics - Girls & Boys, Song 2 and the Graham Coxon-vocaled Coffee & TV are of course included....full text
AvclubMidlife: A Beginner’s Guide To Blur attempts to squeeze the recently revived British band onto two discs, but its music resists being converted into a coherent story. The collection hits the considerable highlights of Blur’s seven-album stretch, but those highlights often don’t sound like the work of the same band. Which is the real Blur, anyway? The clean-cut, clever, Madchester-derived followers behind catchy early-career singles like “She’s So High” and “There’s No Other Way”? The arch, Kinks-inspired observers of end-of-the century Britain—from the working class to the leisure class—found on Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife, and The Great Escape? The increasingly experimental act in thrall to American indie sounds and perpetually on the verge of collapse found on Blur, 13, and the postscripty Think Tank, which was recorded without key player Graham Coxon?
No single Blur sound dominates Midlife, but in spite of the inherited ongoing identity crisis, the collection hardly suffers. Instead, it revels in the crisis, eschewing chronology and blending the early with the late. If anything, the stylistically different but thematically linked “For Tomorrow” and “Coffee And TV” sound at home sequenced back to back, with each catching ’90s ennui at different stages. From Modern Life on, Blur made albums meant to be heard as albums, but this unstuck-in-time collection helps reveal the fullness of the band’s accomplishment. Uptempo tracks like “Girls And Boys” and “Parklife” leave a satiric aftertaste. Ballads like “The Universal” and moody experiments like “Strange News From Another Star” capture the underside to an era of harmony-through-globalization and irrational, chemical-fueled exuberance. Whatever the future holds, few bands fit as well into their time as the Blur captured here....full text
AllmusicReleased in conjunction with their 2009 reunion, the double-disc career retrospective Midlife emphasizes Blur's early psychedelic grind -- halfway between Syd Barrett and shoegazing -- along with their post-Brit-pop indie makeover, giving somewhat short shrift to the band's pop prime, cutting out four of the band's big hits ("There's No Other Way," "Country House," "End of the Century," and "Charmless Man") in favor of album tracks that play into the thesis that Blur were as somber and serious a guitar band as Radiohead. Of course, Blur did rival Radiohead, recording some of the greatest guitar rock of the '90s, but that was only one facet of the band: they were also a bright, artful pop band, cleverly twisting '60s traditions and post-punk styles into the present. Elements of this Blur are evident in "Girls & Boys" and "Parklife," hits so big they couldn't be ignored, and while Midlife could have used a heavier dose of this side of Blur, there's not a bad track here, and the set also brings their glorious, epoch-creating single "Popscene" back into circulation, so Midlife has some considerable value even if it avoids too many highlights to truly be "A Beginner's Guide to Blur" as its subtitle claims....full text
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