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Feature: The Essential Blur

By ; April 26, 2013 at 2:00 PM 

5. “Parklife”

The title-track of Blur’s trouser-wearingest, tea-sippingest album is a clever and funny look into the life of an underachieving British man. Phil Daniels’ guest spot is a highlight on an album that’s pretty much one giant highlight; his talky, hammed-up style is the very same that The Streets’ Mike Skinner made a career out of. That sing-song chorus that is now enshrined in the British musical consciousness seals the deal.

4. “Crazy Beat”

A big old middle finger to the record industry, Blur never rocked harder than they did here. The lyrics here are both totally off the wall (“Trying to get [the President] to party with me/I’ve even offered him ecstasy”) and immersed in rock n’ roll tradition (“I love my brother on a Saturday night”). Even without Coxon, they were a force. This is still unquestionably a Blur song, but beastlier, more tenacious and more strident than ever.

3. “For Tomorrow”

The first hint of the band Blur was to become, “For Tomorrow” is optimism incarnate. Although it initially received a lukewarm reception, it has aged remarkably well; a glorious second chance that Blur seized by the throat after the middling success of their debut album Leisure. For all the perceived simplicity of its chorus, it’s underscored by a surprisingly complex guitar riff, striking equilibrium between depth and instant likeability.

2. “Coffee & TV”

In cataloguing societal satiation with such a deft hand, this may be Blur’s most prophetic offering. Its truths ring out even louder in an overworked, post-Y2K setting, with a narrator struggling to escape the wearisome circuitousness of his existence, take solace in simple pleasures and hit the reset button on life. Lean, anxious guitars and a perfectly rendered falsetto phrase turn reasonably dense subject matter into a breezy six minutes. This Coxon-penned track is stylish pop for the working stiff, or anyone who has ever just needed some respite.

1. “The Universal”

What is there to say? This is Blur’s defining song. Thanks to a beautiful, sprawling orchestral backing and tragically intimate lyrics, “The Universal” fulfills all of the promise that its title might imply. In a future where everything is free, ubiquitous and inescapable, it never slips into hopelessness or despondency. On the contrary, it sounds positively sanguine. This is Blur at the peak of their powers, the height of their majesty, commanding deference from the even most casual of music fans. If you happen to be a total stranger to Blur, here’s your lucky day.

Disagree with our list or think we missed an essential? Let us know in the comments below.

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