It’s time for my opinion to coincide with the consensus! This is Blur’s third and last album about the emptiness and misery of day-to-day life in jolly old England, often termed the “modern life trilogy,” and it’s by a wide margin the weakest.
Here are my problems with this la bum:
Uno: An inability to take themselves seriously all of a sudden. Nearly every song has some silly keyboard noises or high-pitched “la la la”ing to take all the sting out of the message. Some songs even have two or three silly parts happening at once! It’s fine to have difficulty taking oneself seriously and all, but I, as a listener, am not into Blur because I like funny nee-nee-nee-neeee-neeee keyboard noises or “glomph glomph” trumpet sounds. No need to take the piss out of yourself, kids!
Dos: Lots of samey filler. The singles are far better than the album tracks. I have trouble remembering how “Best Days” or “Mr. Robinsons’ Quango” or “Dan Abnormal” even go when I’m not listening to them, while “Top Man” and “He Thought Of Cars” and “It Could Be You” seem to lack certain necessary components of being Blur songs.
Tres: A sudden lyrical phocus on the extremely wealthy. From the yachting cover, it’s on with suddenly talking about how the rich are pointless and miserable, not normal people in sad, failed marriages. Come on, what happened to “all the people, so many people”? It’s a lot harder to get involved when the main topics are the bored and moneyed. And somehow I doubt that the rich retired exhibitionists of “Stereotypes” are, in fact, stereotypical. I’ve certainly never heard of that sort of quandary before.
Four: Blur’s least exciting “character” songs at all, two of which, “Ernold Same” (which I otherwise like) and “Dan Abnormal” are totally ruined by the fact that nobody has EVER been named “Ernold Same” or “Dan Abnormal” ever.
Four: There are only two rock songs and they’re both ruined by the aforementioned silly falsetto “la la la la la”s.
See? Lots of things to complain about! The good news is that the lead single, “Country House” does all of the above only really really well, “Charmless Man” is a rather lovely take-down that I’ve always thought to be underrated, “The Universal,” this album’s “To the End,” is almost as sadly wonderful, and “Yuko and Hiro” is genuinely sad as well. Also there’s no short instrumental tracks (okay, there’s a bonus track that is, but that’s it) so you really get your money’s worth in length of audio. Plus, the packaging is really cool. They all look shockingly handsome on the back cover, no homo. It’s still a Blur album, so all the songs all have some kind of hook; it’s never outrightly bad, so don’t go thinking I think this is a bad, it’s just not a great or particularly noteworthy album, which is a shame.
7 / 10