Years Active: 1989-2003; 2008-present
Genre: Britpop, Alternative, Lo-Fi, Psychedelic, Shoegaze
You know what I hate most about British bands? That when they make reunion tours they never tour in the United States. You know what else I hate about British bands? That because many get little recognition in the U.S., I can’t expect them to feel inclined to tour outside of their home continent.
Blur was one of the most popular bands of the 90s, but never quite had the crossover success in the states. Blur was NSYNC. Blur was Britney Spears. Blur was Backstreet Boys….except WAY more talented/influential than any of these bands. I know it’s disgusting, maybe even a turnoff for future listeners to hear that these guys were that mainstream, but its not as if popular musicians haven’t made influential music. If nothing else, Blur proves you can keep your integrity and still have women throwing their panties at you. That’s got to count for something. [side note: this may sound like I’m dissing the boy band era of American pop but I’m not–I actually enjoy the Backstreet Boys. Judge me.]
I found out about Blur some time ago because I was becoming a huge fan of Shoegaze music. I saw that their debut record was their only shoegaze record, and decided to roll with it after I had looked into more prominent bands of the genre. For months I held off on their Britpop era music as I have done with many shoegaze turned Britpop bands [initially I hated songs like “Ladykillers,” from Lush and was discouraged with the idea of changing genres for what seemed to be the sake of being popular.]Eventually, I decided to give Modern Life Is Rubbish a spin because of how well received it was. My mind was blown.
Blur has been described as one of the godfathers of the Britpop genre, Modern Life Is Rubbsh being their first stab at it. Britpop is music with strong influences from 60s/70s British guitar pop. The genre stemmed as a contrast to the grunge movement in the United States that was invading the United Kingdom. Due to its witty topics, and concerns for British culture, it also stemmed as an edgier alternative to the more “privileged” and “obnoxious” shoegaze bands. Many even consider the Britpop the “anti-grunge” and follow-up genre to the indie and Madchester scenes of the late 80s/early 90s [The Stone Roses, The Smiths, etc.]
In any case, Blur became one of the biggest bands of the early 90s in Great Britain. They have three britpop records, Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife, and The Great Escape. All three are well worth your time, my personal favorite being Parklife. The band lives off catchy hooks and intuitive, witty lyrics, with multi-layered vocals that really make it clear why some considered them the 90s form of the Beatles.
Afterwards, lead singer Damon Albarn [mind behind Gorillaz] and co. decided to switch gears by giving their forthcoming album a more lo-fi sound in the vein of Pavement. Their self-titled fifth record was released in 1997, and is probably their weakest album in comparison to the previous three Britpop records. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however [Blur makes great music, so calling their s/t record bad is like calling Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief bad.] The album contains tons of satire, and musically is a bit darker than any of their other albums. It contains their one American hit single, “Song 2,” which is ironically Damon Albarn making fun of American rock music, and grunge
The last record I have from them is 13 which is a bit more experimental and psychedelic than previous records. It’s way better than their self titled record, and is easily on the same level as their britpop albums. Their final album, Think Tank was released in 2003 but I’ve never listened to it so I won’t comment on it.
As far as record to listen to, the three britpop records [Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife, and The Great Escape] are a must as is 13. Despite my own backlash for their s/t record, it too, is a damn good listen, and a great record by the standards of any band. I’ve also heard their shoegaze record, Leisure but I don’t remember many good songs on it, if any. If nothing else, their britpop/indie years are so much better than their shoegaze years that the latter isn’t even worth your time. Again, I never listened to Think Tank but plan to in the near future.
*side note: if pop music isn’t your thing, you should [obviously] just skip to the last few links and save some time *
Albums: Leisure, Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife, The Great Escape, Blur, 13, Think Tank
Chemical World [Modern Life Is Rubbish]
Colin Zeal [Modern Life Is Rubbish]
End Of A Century [Parklife]
London Loves [Parklife]
Girls & Boys [Parklife]
Clover Over Dover [Parklife]
Country House [The Great Escape]
Charmless Man [The Great Escape]
Song 2 [Self-Titled]
Country Sad Ballad Man [Self-Titled]
Swamp Song 
Coffee & TV