Blur (band)

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From left to right: Graham Coxon, Alex James, Damon Albarn and Dave Rowntree

Blur is an Alternative Rock band from Colchester, England (though more often associated with London), chiefly existing in The Nineties. Partial founders of the Britpop movement. Consists of singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James, and drummer Dave Rowntree.

Debuted in 1989 on the Shoegazing and Madchester scenes as Seymour before signing to Food Records under the condition that they change their name to Blur (and, according to fan legend, that drummer Dave Rowntree stop wearing pyjama pants on stage). Soon after released their first album Leisure to moderate success, followed by the very British "Popscene" single and a tour of America to predictable results.

Achieved great success with Parklife a couple of years later, they switched to noisy, experimental Alternative Rock for the next couple of albums until eventually dissolving after Think Tank sometime around 2004. The original lineup, with Graham Coxon in tow, reunited in 2009 to much anticipation and released a new song, "Fool's Day" in the Spring of 2010. The band released two new songs, "Under the Westway" and "The Puritan", in July 2012, and performed at Hyde Park on the following month. They eventually released Blur 21, a massive 21-disc collection containing all albums up to that point plus a huge chunk of side material in commemoration of the band's 21st anniversary, and in 2015 they released The Magic Whip, their first album in twelve years.

Not to be confused with the video game.

  • Leisure (1991)
  • Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)
  • Parklife (1994)
  • The Great Escape (1995)
  • Blur (1997)
  • 13 (1999)
  • Think Tank (2003)
  • The Magic Whip (2015)
Blur (band) provides examples of the following tropes:
  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: For instance, "Song 2"'s refrain (It has more lyrics than WOO-HOO) goes "When I feel heavy meTAL / And I'm pins and needLES".
  • Affectionate Parody: The song "Song 2" parodies Grunge, while sounding better than most songs in the genre.
    • It was intended to be an affectionate parody of Graham Coxon's favorite band at the time, Pavement. The lyrics might be, the music certainly isn't.
  • Album Title Drop: Modern Life Is Rubbish in "For Tomorrow"
  • Attractive Bent Gender: Alex James in the "Parklife" video.
  • Audience Participation Song:
    • "The Universal" has the audience taking over the choir during the chorus.
    • The Hyde Park concert had the crowd singing along to "Coffee and TV" and "Girls & Boys", to the point they were louder than the band. They were missed indeed.
    • For the band's ultimate example, look no further than "Tender". When performed live, the track turns into a ten-minute epic with the audience participating in it. During Coxon's hiatus from the band, the audience sang his lines, "Oh my baby, oh my baby, oh why, oh my", and these lines were even used to call the band back for an encore.
    • "Tracy Jacks" is just as potent, with the audience screaming "TRAY-CEE JACKS!" at the top of their lungs.
  • Badass Boast: "Me, White Noise" in the original version has Albarn claiming "I'm the original".
  • The Band Minus the Face: Fans of Coxon saw Think Tank as this. Albarn sorta agrees.
  • Bank Holidays: "Bank Holiday", weirdly enough.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • "To The End" has Stereolab singer Lætitia Sadier speaking French between the lines of the verses. In the Parklife single, Albarn himself tries to sing the whole song in French, to hilarious results due to his bad French, and the "La Comédie" version has Françoise Hardy alternating her good French with Albarn's English.
    • "Yuko and Hiro" features backing vocals in Japanese.
    • "Girls and Boys" has a bit of Gratuitous German, as does "Parklife" itself at the third verse.
    • Also, a b-side to "Girls and Boys" called "People in Europe" contains lyrics in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Swedish, all with some embarrassingly bad pronunciation.
    • The cover for The Magic Whip has the band's name and the album title in Cantonese. Fitting as China is the main inspiration for the whole album's theme.
  • Black Sheep Hit: "Song 2" (especially in America) and to a lesser extent, "Boys and Girls".
  • Break Up Song: Most of 13, as it spins around Albarn's relationship with Justine Frischmann of Elastica and its end.
  • Britain Is Only London: "For Tomorrow"'s video is like this, but it makes sense as the song references London several times.
  • Britpop: The pioneers. Their albums Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape form a loose Britpop trilogy about the lives of the Working, Middle and Upper classes in Britain, respectively.
  • B-Side: A 22 CD set was released in 1999: 22 singles with all their original b-sides, a 127 track total. A bigger collection in the form of Blur 21 was released in 2012.
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Parklife", with the spoken lines done by Phil Daniels.
  • Call Back:
    • "M.O.R" has the line "here comes a low", in reference to "This Is a Low" from Parklife.
    • The song "1992" on 13 was a re-recorded outtake from the "Modern Life Is Rubbish" era. To long-term listeners, the song is obviously very similar to a number of downbeat songs of the time (compare "Miss America" and "Peach", for instance), but to hammer the fact home, Graham Coxon reuses guitar effects that he used specifically in that year, most notably on "Into Another", a song that was going to be on Blur's 1992 album Leisure, but ended up being a B-Side instead. The song also is strikingly similar to "Sing", which made it into Leisure.
  • Camp Straight: An obvious case on "Mr. Robinson's Quango".
  • Careful with That Axe: Albarn delves into this on certain tracks:
    • The last words from "Swamp Song":


    • A sudden one happens when "Crazy Beat" enters its last third.


    • This bit in "Me, White Noise", complete with voice distortion.

Furthermore... furthermore... YOU'RE BORING!!

  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Oh yes.
  • Concept Album: Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, and The Great Escape form a loose trilogy about the lives of the Working, Middle, and Upper classes in Britain, respectively. Blur is largely about Damon's relationship with Justine Frischmann, and 13 is almost all about the end of their relationship. Also, Think Tank with a very loose concept about war and love, and The Magic Whip, inspired by the band's stint in China.
  • Darker and Edgier: Their first few albums were bright and bubbly, but their albums gradually got darker and melancholy as their sound progressed, with the subject matter of 13 mainly being that of Damon's split from his girlfriend, having a very eerie and sombre feel to it.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: A very creepy example is shown in "I'm Just a Killer for Your Love".
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Graham Coxon gets his chance to sing in "You're So Great" and "Coffee and TV", where he does the main vocals, and "Tender" where he does the chorus. There's also the B-Side "Rednecks" from Parklife, where he tries a Fake American accent.
    • Alex James has his chance with "Far Out" and "Alex' Song" from Parklife, the latter through pitch-shifting effects. A demo released on the Blur 21 box set does not feature these effects, and it's said it happened in Albarn's deliberate attempt to sabotage Alex so he wouldn't outshine him.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: "Yuko and Hiro", which is a sad song itself:

I drink in the evenings
It helps with relaxing
I can't sleep without drinking
We drink together

  • Drugs Are Bad: "Beetlebum" is about negative drug experiences that Damon Albarn had with the aforementioned Justine Frischmann.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: "Death Of A Party" was originally recorded in 1992 as an acoustic demo, but not released. The band forgot about it until they rediscovered it in 1996 and released it on CD as that years fan club release. They liked it so much they decided to rerecord it for their 1997 album Blur. Remixes were commissioned, but it didn't make a full single.
    • The same is true of the song "1992" which was written and home demoed in the year it's named after, but but was deemed too dark and depressing. That is, until 1999, when Blur made their dark and depressing album 13 on which it fit perfectly. The demo of "1992" has never been released. What is interesting about the 1999 version is that guitar effects are used which Blur hadn't used since their unreleased 1992 album (compare about 3:40 in "1992" to those at the end of "Into Another").
    • "I Got Law" is an early demo version of the Gorillaz song "Tomorrow Comes Today" - so early the only recognisable element is Damon's vocal melody, and the drum machine and synths make it sound like something out of Homestar Runner. "I Got Law" is so obscure (it only appears as a bonus track to the Japanese version of 13) that it isn't known whether Damon actually wanted to release it.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Their first album Leisure is basically a Shoegazing-Madchester fusion. This is lessened once the early Shoegaze references creep into Blur, 13 and Think Tank.
    • Before Leisure, their material as Seymour exists, and it surfaced on the B-Sides of "Sunday Sunday" and the Blur 21 boxset. It was noisey, fast-paced Pop Punk-y stuff. From Parklife onwards, this was nodded to Once An Episode with fast rave tracks like "Bank Holiday", "Globe Alone", "Chinese Bombs", "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." and "We've Got a File on You".
  • Ear Rape: "She's So High" in their Seymour demo. The song was really beta back then and it was obvious it was made on some garage. But what qualifies it in this trope is a particular piece of it: near the end of the eleven-minute repetition, Albarn starts screaming at the microphone, and it audibly distorts every time he raises his voice. Be glad that he reworked the song so it could become decent material in Leisure.
  • Epic Rocking: The studio version of "Tender" clocks at seven minutes, gaining some extra three when performed live.
    • "Garden Central", "Essex Dogs", "Battle", "Caramel", "Bustin' and Dronin'", "Me, White Noise" and "Jets" all qualify.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: "To The End", with an alternate version recorded entirely in French. As mentioned above the original featured French spoken word backing vocals by Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab. The semi-French "La Comedie" version features vocals from Françoise Hardy.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Song 2", as the second song in Blur, lasting exactly two minutes and two seconds, with only two verses and choruses, released as the second single of the album (after "Beetlebum"), and peaked #2 on the UK charts. Did Albarn actually plan for this?
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Damon is Choleric, Coxon is Melancholic, James is Sanguine and Rowntree is Phlegmatic.
  • Genre Shift: From shoegazing-pop to Britpop to blatantly Pavementish to melancholic electronica to whatever the hell Think Tank was.
    • To distance themselves even further from their Britpop image, the band fled the UK and recorded Blur in Reykjavík.
  • Gratuitous Panning: The guitar and drums in "Essex Dogs".
  • Greatest Hits Album: Two: The Best of Blur (2000) and Midlife (2009), though Midlife wasn't much of a greatest-hits as a plain old retrospective, as it purposely excluded a few key singles like "There's No Other Way" and "Country House" (not because the band didn't like them but because their label wanted to market them as a Serious 90's Guitar Band) in favor of obscure album tracks like "Blue Jeans" and "Strange News from Another Star".
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Albarn and Coxon fits the bill, and the former suffered gratly when the latter took a time away from the band.
  • Hidden Track: A few peppered along the albums:
    • "Intermission" was originally hidden after "Chemical World" in Modern Life Is Rubbish.
    • Blur has "Interlude" hidden in the length of "Essex Dogs". That's right, they hid the track in the middle of the song.
    • 13 has a few hidden instrumental tracks at the end of "Coffee and TV", "B.L.U.R.E.M.I.", "Battle", "Trailerpark" and "Caramel". The ones after "Coffee and TV" and "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." are short organ doodles (the latter being notable for being played on a synth organ that makes it sound like an Earthbound soundtrack outtake), "Battle" had Alex and Graham soloing over a keyboard drone, "Trailerpark" has the two playing a Krautrock riff over a Casio drum machine, and "Caramel" involves some lo-fi keyboard melody before transitioning into a funky tune.
    • "Bugman" still on 13 has a play on this, referred by fans as the "Bugman Exitlude": the song itself ends on overwhelming guitar noise and the sound of a motorbike starting up, before switching into a massive, funky bassline played by Alex, Dave pounding the drums in unison with an electronic loop, Graham adding fuzzed-out licks, and Albarn singing "space is the place" in falsetto. Intense.
    • Think Tank has one on "Me, White Noise": it originally was hidden in the album's pregap, now it's at the end of it.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: With some regularity, especially when distorted vocals become their norm.
  • Intercourse with You: "Beetlebum" has this along with drug use.
  • Irony: The "Chemical World" video has the band playing with animals in a forest area. Note that it's a song about living in the city.
  • Keet: Damon Albarn is hyperactive, both on stage and on music videos. The rest of the band nearly disappears compared to him.
  • Large Ham: Shown in "Mr. Robinson's Quango".
  • Last-Note Nightmare: "Sing" ends on that fashion.
  • List Song: The lyrics of "Far Out" are a list of stars and moons visible at night.
  • Looped Lyrics: "We've Got A File On You" is... well... just that. And nothing else. "Jets," as well.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Country House" is a bright, shiny pop tune about a horribly depressed rich man dealing with the emptiness of his existence.
    • "Clover Over Dover", a cheery tune with lyrics about suicide. The demo makes it even creepier.
    • Many, if not most of their songs have Lyrical Dissonance to some degree. They epitomize the very Britpop tendency of marrying rather melancholy lyrics to bouncy, bubbly pop songs.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Figuratively in "Song 2":

I got my head checked
By a Jumbo jet
It wasn't easy
But nothing i-is, oh

  • Metal Scream: Melding with Careful with That Axe in "Swamp Song".
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: They are typically a 2-4, with their softest songs being a 1 and their heaviest songs being a 5. They hardly, if ever, go heavier than this.
  • Mr. Fanservice: The whole band, during the Britpop years. Damon and Alex were drop-dead gorgeous, Graham was very handsome, and Dave was attractive and looked Hollywood-ugly only when compared with the other three. This caused a backlash from many males, who compared Blur to boy-bands the likes of New Kids on the Block or Take That. This got to the point that the male fans (and some of the female ones) who respected the band talent and appreciated their music were immensely bothered that the girls swooned so much about the band members' looks, instead of focusing on their music. It is curious that as age has taken its toll, many people who didn't appreciate the band actually started to think their music was good.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "This Is a Low" makes a mere weather forecast become a hell of an epic track.
  • Murder Ballad: "I'm Just A Killer For Your Love", if you can understand it through the megaphones.
  • Music Video Overshadowing: "Coffee and TV". That video with the walking milk box.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: The band went ecletic as their career progressed, which at first started with light experiments (like the Country pisstake "Rednecks") and forays into jazz ("Got Yer!"), 60's leonge pop ("To the End"), music hall (covers of "Daisy Bell (A Bycicle for Two)" and "Let's All Go Down the Strand"), background muzak ("Supa Shoppa" and "Eine Kleine Lift Musik"), Synth Pop ("Girls & Boys", "People In Europe"), faux-soundtrack work ("Theme from an Imaginary Film") and waltz ("Anniversary Waltz"). As they left the Britpop scenery, they started experimenting for real, with 13 involving electronic music, "Music Is My Radar" and a good chunk of Think Tank involving Afrobeat Funk Rock. Think Tank also showed Middle-Eastern orchestrations ("Out of Time") and Blues guitar ("Brothers and Sisters"). During the Britpop era, this was the argument that put the band in a favorable position against their rival Oasis.
  • New Sound Album: At least half of them:
    • Modern Life Is Rubbish introduced the Britpop sound the band became known for after Leisure failed to make waves with its Shoegazing-inspired sound.
    • Blur broke away from the Britpop and into Alternative Rock-based sound akin to Pavement.
    • 13 ventured into experimental, psychedelic and electronic music.
    • Think Tank went the Genre Roulette route, mixing dance music, hip hop, jazz, afrobeat and funk.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Anything with the word "Song" in it and pretty much nothing else. Other examples are "Moroccan Peoples' Revolutionary Bowls Club", "Essex Dogs" and "Trouble In the Message Centre".
  • Obvious Beta: Parklife has two examples:
    • "Far Out". Compare the song that ended in the album against its demo and a remix that completes the album song. Chances are that you will prefer either the demo or the remix over the final track due to how they basically chopped half the song on its way to the album.
    • "Alex' Song" from the same album's B-sides also suffers from this, due to Alex James Corpsing heavily against the pitch distortion and eventually giving in and dropping out of the mic to laugh. The demo has some extra content compared to the "finished" song. It seems Alex James tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to his songs...
  • Pac-Man Fever: In "Jubilee", right after the lyric "So he just plays on his computer game" some beepy sound effects are played. Justified, though, as the song was released in 1994.
  • Perishing Alt Rock Voice: Visible along the tracks in Leisure, dropped in the later albums (save few exceptions), and back full-force in Blur and later albums.
  • Poe's Law: "Song 2" was originally intended as a satire to Grunge, but ended up as an archetype of the genre.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Me, White Noise" has this in both its versions:

And you trip over yourself, and you think to yourself:
'Why am I here?'
I'm here because I've got no fucking choice

  • Protest Song: "Don't Bomb When You Are the Bomb", a rare single written in protest against the Iraq War; most of its copies were handed out and destroyed in an anti-war rally, but the song is still available in the Blur 21 box set.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The band was the blue oni to Oasis's red during their rivalry. In the band itself, Damon and Graham are the red onis, while Alex and Dave are the blue ones.
  • Scatting: Numerous examples across their career. "For Tomorrow", "Magic America", "Charmless Man", just to name a few.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Albarn frequently does this, with Coxon adding an extra backing vocal.
  • Self-Titled Album: The fifth, which is the one where they abandoned Britpop.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll: The premise of "Crazy Beat".
  • Shout-Out:
  • Significant Anagram: Damon Albarn used to run with "Dan Abnormal" (which even became a name for one of The Great Escape's tracks) when collaborating with the band Elastica. He also resorted to the pseudonym "Norman Balda".
    • "M.O.R. (Road Version)"'s video has the entire band going by anagrams: "Morgan C. Hoax" for Graham Coxon, "Lee Jaxsam" for Alex James and "Trevor Dewane" for Dave Rowntree. Creative, huh?
  • Solo Side-Project: Coxon has a healthy solo career he started even before his hiatus from the band.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: "Song 2" goes "WOO-HOO".
  • Signature Song: Yeah, "Song 2" is hard to shake off.
  • Spoken Word in Music:
    • "Parklife", most notably, with Phil Daniels doing the speaking.
    • "Me, White Noise", also with Phil Daniels.
    • Albarn does this himself on "Essex Dogs".
  • Theremin: "Essex Dogs" includes one.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "I'm Just a Killer For Your Love".
  • Together in Death/Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Milky the Milk Carton (and his strawberry milk carton lover) at the end of the music video for "Coffee & TV".
  • Trope Maker: The creators of the Britpop scene, so to say. Or even better, the responsibles for its revival.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "B.L.U.R.E.M.I."
  • Vocal Dissonance: Albarn's voice is much deeper when he speaks than when he sings.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "People In Europe" does this in multiple languages.