Review ·

There’s an almost knee-jerk reaction against greatest-hits albums among people who care about such things, and for good reason: They’re mostly terrible. They’re a way to sell the same fans the same music twice (or thrice). And they often remove songs of their context within an album, which is something that matters to a lot of fans. 

 

And that’s how discussion around Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur is probably going to be framed, especially since the band released a greatest-hits/live comp just nine years ago (Blur: Best Of). But what’s likely to get lost in there is the fact that Blur had only one top-ten U.S. hit (the lark of “Song 2”), and most stories about them that cracked the U.S. press centered on their lame and fake feud with Oasis. It’s not like Blur were conquering heroes who everyone knew; stateside they were marginalized in the alt-rock boom of the mid-'90s.

 

As its subtitle suggests, Midlife ain’t for those with worn-out copies of Parklife lying around: It’s for the more than a handful of “beginners” to Blur who only came to know of the band after coverage of their recent (U.K.-only) reunion tour made the rounds. Sure, the greatest-hits release seems timed for a cash grab, but Blur have long been over do for a reappraisal of their canon (in the U.S. especially), and Midlife makes a strong case for Blur being the best band ever tossed underneath the Brit-pop banner.

 

Midlife’s two-disc, 25-song length ensures that just about every good-to-great single Blur ever released is included, starting with breakout single “Girls & Boys,” “Coffee & TV” and “The Universal,” and culminating with “She’s So High,” “Popscene” (an out-of-print single included here for the first time), “Parklife” and late-period highlight “Battery in Your Leg,” from 2003’s Think Tank (which came out after Blur: Best Of). The songs showcase a band that was capable of dominating the Top of the Pops while still managing to hold on tightly to their art-school roots (they were like Radiohead without the self-loathing), and it maps out the evolution of Blur as they went from Kinks-obsessives with an equally great respect for the Smiths and Stone Roses to something more distinct.

 

If there’s a complaint to be lobbed at Midlife, it’s that it’s sequenced with a lot of the band’s slower, down-tempo numbers stacked on top of each other in a ten-song tun that spans disc one and disc two, which makes for a sometimes weary listening experience. But the strength of the (somewhat) random sequencing is that it doesn’t arrange things chronologically, so the similarities between early singles like “Popscene” and later singles like “Battery in Your Leg” become apparent thanks to appearing close together. Blur may not have gotten the adulation they deserved in the states during their heyday, but Midlife is a solid move to reevaluate Blur’s position in the pantheon.

 

***

Band: http://www.blur.co.uk

Label: http://www.emi.com

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/blur

 

  • Beetlebum
  • Girls & Boys
  • For Tomorrow
  • Coffee & TV
  • Out Of Time
  • Blue Jeans
  • Song 2
  • Bugman
  • He Thought Of Cars
  • Death Of A Party
  • The Universal
  • Sing
  • This Is A Low
  • Tender
  • She's So High
  • Chemical World
  • Good Song
  • Parklife
  • Advert
  • Popscene
  • Stereotypes
  • Trimm Trabb
  • Badhead
  • Strange News From Another Star
  • Battery In Your Leg

Side projects aside, Blur's Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, and Dave Rowntree deserve more credit here in the States. Remember, only one Blur single (1997's "Song 2") ever jostled its way into the US Top 10. Midlife: A Beginner's Guide to Blur is a two-disc comeback compilation to remedy that situation (read: win back those misguided Oasis fans). Midlife also digs a little deeper into the Blur catalog than the inaugural retrospective, 2000's Blur: The Best Of. Of course, the popular singles are here for casual listeners ("Song 2" and Girls & Boys") but the second disc unearths tracks from Blur's late career. 1993's Modern Life is Rubbish (including the out-of-print cut "Popscene") and the group's most recent studio release, 2003's Think Tank, are also in the tracklisting.

 

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ii

Big Blur fan, but still a bit sceptical on some songs here. Ambulance should be here, so should Caramel. What is She's So High doing here again? Why was Bang so disliked when the versus are simply brilliant? The Universal is overrated and boring, i can singalong to it but gives me no real satisfaction. He thought of cars is pretty good, but a letdown when i hear the entire song. Only the chorus is decent. Blue Jeans is poor and they should have put in Fade Away. Gene by Gene should have replaced Good Song (although Good Song is a good song). I sound critical, but I'm pretty happy all up with this track listing. I look forward to people writing in and seeing what they say to this text.

Sean

It looks like a randomly-generated Blur playlist on iTunes. It's pointless for me to go into which songs are missing or which selections are very sub-standard Blur - I'll give objectivity the benefit of the doubt - but the tracklisting seems utterly devoid of momentum. How on Earth can they put The Universal/Sing/This Is A Low together in the middle of the collection? If they book-end the first disc, there's an ounce of reason behind it but to finish the whole listen with Battery In Your Leg? [piss shudders]

Gray

What about the rumors of new songs? Anybody knows?

Omar

Out of Time and Chemical World (hopefully the single version) are great picks. And it's blur, so whatever songs they pick are good in my book... but putting Beetlebum as the first track and not having Song#2 as the next is criminal! It's like when zep seperated Heartbreaker and Living Loving Maid, except not nearly as horrible.

stevie g

Still underrated in the US. Hopefully this will help

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Ethan/nirvana-corporate-rock-whoresjpg.jpg EStan

Good, but their last greatest hits album was much better, imo. I also don't like the version of 'Chemical World' they used.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Banger/images-6jpg.jpg B/|nGerKat

i'd like to see 'battle', 'you're so great', 'entertain me' and why not 'young&lovely' in it..

/site_media/uploads/images/users/spiros/n739451937_2333jpg.jpg spiros

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