It struck me, on Monday night, as I lay in bed listening to the new Blur single on my iPod, just how much has changed since I first heard Blur 21 years ago.
That first time was a Sunday night, as a school bus carried us home, and ‘There’s No Other Way’ was a chart entry on the Top 40. I didn’t even own a CD player then. I was fourteen, and a pretty miserable teenager.
But Blur ended up providing much of the soundtrack of the next twelve years. I bought ‘Popscene’ in 1992 on 7″ (admittedly out of the bargain bin for 25p; years later, having acquired the 12″, I sold it for £5). Over the course of the next three albums –Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape-The band rose steadily to become the biggest band in Britain by 1995 (with the possible exception of Take That). And I still preferred them to Oasis, even when to admit to do so in public was something of a social faux pas.
But Blur were never a band to rest on their laurels. Over the course of their next three albums, 1997’s Blur, 1999’s 13 and 2003’s Think Tank, they pushed the boat out further and further. And they just got better and better. I finally saw them live in late 2003; Graham Coxon had left the band by then, but as I saw them at Glasgow Barrowlands, I felt glad that I had at least got to see them.
Various projects from the band members happened. It wasn’t clear if the band had actually split. But in 2009 they were back together. I felt old when the kids I taught had no idea (and these were teenagers) who this band were that were headlining T In The Park that year. And this year, no-one’s sure if they’ll be doing anything again after a busy summer -but if this is their final single (and the midweek charts suggest it will be yet another top thirty single, their first for nearly nine years) it’s one hell of a way to go out. I think ‘Under The Westway’ evokes ‘Battery In Your Leg,’ ‘Bad Day’ and ‘This Is a Low.’ And b-side ‘The Puritan’ is utterly different again, a post-punk meets lo-fi synth workout.
God bless you, Blur.