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Cover of Blur: The Best Of - Clockwise from top left: Coxon, James, Rowntree, Albarn
Blur is the name of a British rock band. Originally called Seymour, Blur were formed in London in 1989 by vocalist/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/back vocalist Graham Coxon, and bassist Alex James, with drummer Dave Rowntree joining the lineup.



Roots and Influence

Blur were one of the British bands who appeared in the wake of the Stone Roses's eponymous album, mixing psychedelic pop rock with very loud guitars. Following an image change in the mid-'90s, the group emerged as one of the most popular bands in the U.K., establishing themselves as heir to the English pop tradition of the Kinks, the Small Faces, the Who, the Jam, Madness, and the Smiths. In the process, the group broke open the doors for a new generation of bands who became labeled as Britpop. With Damon Albarn's wry lyrics and 'mockney' vocals, Graham Coxon's remarkable guitar work and the group's pop mastery, Blur were one of the leaders of the Britpop movement. However they quickly became bound to it; since they were one of its biggest bands, they nearly fell apart when the movement itself subdued. Through some reinvention, Blur reclaimed their position as an art pop rock band in the late 1990s by incorporating indie rock and lo-fi influences of the American bands in the style of Pavement and R.E.M., which finally gave them their elusive American success in 1997. But the band's legacy remained in Britain, where they helped reinvent the guitar pop music by skillfully enriching the country's pop traditions.

Breakthrough and rising to success (1991-1993)

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Breakthrough and uprising - from left: Graham Coxon, Alex James, Damon Albarn and Dave Rowntree

After "She's So High," the group's first single, made it into the Top 50 - Morissey producer Stephen Street contacted the band and proposed to them to produce their album. The band agreed and this would be considered very wise move, considering the band's latest success. The parntership between Blur and Street would be incredibly successful and would last for the next half-decade. Street would be often dubbed by fans and press to be the band's fifth member, because of his exceptional production help, which aided the band immensely on their way to stardom.

The follow-up to "She's So High" - "There's No Other Way" - went Top Ten. Both singles were included on their debut album, Leisure. Although receiving good reviews, the album fit into the dying Madchester pop scene, causing some journalists and music critics to dismiss the band as manufactured teen idols. For a couple of years, Blur struggled to abandon this title and prove the critics wrong.

XTC's producer Andy Partridge was originally slated to produce the follow-up of Leisure - Modern Life Is Rubbish. However the relationship between him and the band soon deteriorated, so Street was again brought in to produce the record. After spending nearly a year in the studio, the band delivered the album to Food records. However the record company rejected the album, declaring that it needed a hit single. The band went back into the studio and recorded "For Tomorrow", which turned out to be a British hit. Food were ready to release the record, but their U.S. record company, SBK, said there was no American hit single on the record and asked them to return to the studio. They angrily complied and recorded "Chemical World," which pleased SBK for a short while; the song would become a minor alternative hit in the U.S. and charted at number 28 in the U.K. Modern Life... was set for release in the spring of 1993, when SBK asked Blur to re-record the album with producer Butch Vig (Nirvana and Sonic Youth). At this point the band was quite angry and irritated, so refused. The record was released in May in Britain; it appeared in the United States that fall. Modern Life Is Rubbish received good reviews in Britain, peaking at number 15 on the charts, yet it failed to make much of an impression in the U.S.

Britpop and the Height of Fame (1994-1998)

Modern Life... turned out to be a dry run for Blur's breakthrough album - Parklife. The follow-up entered the charts at number one and catapulted the band to stardom in Britain. The new wave dance-pop single "Girls and Boys" entered the charts at number five; the single managed to spend 15 weeks on the U.S. charts, peaking at number 52, but the album never cracked the charts. It was a completely different story in England, as Blur had a string of hit singles, including the ballad "To the End" and the mod anthem "Parklife," which featured narration by Phil Daniels, the star of the film version of the Who's Quadrophenia.

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At the height of the popularity, from left: Damon, Alex, Graham and Dave

With the success of Parklife, Blur opened the door for many British bands who dominated the British pop culture in the mid-'90s and which were labeled as Britpop. Oasis, Elastica, Pulp, the Boo Radleys, Supergrass, Gene, Echobelly, Menswear, Mansun, Radiohead, Suede and numerous other bands all benefited from the band's success. By the beginning of 1995, Parklife went triple platinum and the band became superstars. The group spent the first half of 1995 recording their fourth album and playing various one-off concerts, including a sold-out stadium show.

Blur released "Country House", the first single from their new album, in August amidst media attention, as Albarn had requested the single's release moved up a week to compete with the release of "Roll With It," a new single from Blur's chief rivals, Oasis. The strategy however backfired. Although the band won the battle, with "Country House" becoming the group's first number one single, they ultimately lost the war, as Oasis became Britain's biggest band at the time with their second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, overshadowing The Great Escape. Whilst The Great Escape entered the U.K. charts at number one and earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, it sold in smaller numbers, and by the beginning of 1996, Blur were seen as has-beens, especially since they once again failed to make impression to the American market, where Oasis had been successful.

In the face of negative press and weak public support, Blur nearly broke up in early 1996, following a major drug-fueled scuffle between chief artists Coxon and Albarn. Instead, the band decided to spend the entire year out of the spotlight, quietly plotting and working on the follow-up of The Great Escape. By the end of the year, Albarn declared that he was no longer interested in British music and was fascinated with American indie rock, a genre that Graham Coxon had been supporting for years.

These influences sparked in Blur's untitled fifth album, which was released in February of 1997 to fantastic reviews, nearly rivaling with those of the Great Escape. However the band's reinvention didn't earn them initially warm reviews in U.K. - the album and the first single, "Beetlebum" (said to be heavily influenced by American indie band Pavement) debuted at number one but quickly fell down the charts - as the group's mass audience didn't all accept this incarnation. In the U.S. the record received strong reviews and the album and its second single "Song 2" became a moderate hit. The success in America was eventually repeated in Britain and by the end of the year Blur bounced back to the charts. It show-cased natural evolving of the band beyond their roots, while combining earlier work in a successful blend of Britpop and American music, which came in contrast of the much-criticized record of their counterparts Oasis - Be Here Now.

Post Britpop (1999-present)

As the Britpop movement died, the band decided to take different approach to their next album, so they parted ways with long-time producer and collaborator Stephen Street, who helped immensly in establishing the band. However many fans weren't so happy about it and critisized the band. Nevertheless, in 1999, Blur returned with 13, a more mature album, than any other records Blur have released. It was lyrically dominated by the end of Albarn's turbulent relationship with Justine Frischmann - Elastica frontwoman as well as his battle with drug and alcoholic addictions, provoked by this. Darker in tone, the album was received very well, although not as well as their Britpop records. In addition, a box set celebrating Blur's 10th anniversary was released later that year. The box set featured 22 singles and all accompanying b-sides.

Exhausted by incessant recording and touring through the world, the band entered into a hiatus. Albarn said that as they didn't stop for a decade, they needed a break. For a couple of years members of Blur engaged in a variety of side-projects around this time: Coxon made a number of solo albums, Alex James joined actor Keith Allen and artist Damien Hirst (who had both contributed their talents to the video for Blur's single, "Country House" earlier) to form Fat Les, while Albarn contributed to Gorillaz and travelled to Mali on behalf of Oxfam, producing the fundraising album Mali Music.

Tensions between Coxon and the rest of the band escalated during recording sessions in 2002. Coxon was variously reported to have failed to attend recording sessions or to have been shut out of them. He was apparently unhappy at the choice of dance DJ Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) as the sessions' producer. After several weeks of rumour and uncertainty, Coxon confirmed that he had been asked to leave the band for reasons connected with his "attitude" at a time when he had given up a heavy alcohol habit. Since then Albarn had said that the door is always opened for Graham to return, but a possible project or a collaborative work of the full line-up is not very likely in the foreseeable future.

Albarn later told an interviewer that there had been a big struggle between himself and Coxon. The album resulting from the sessions, Think Tank, was released in May 2003 to mostly favourable reviews and was nominated for Best British Album at the 2004 Brit awards. Ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong has been standing in place of Coxon on live dates. Ironically, Coxon realigned with ex-Blur producer Stephen Street, to release his most successful and accessible solo album up to date Happiness In Magazines in middle 2004.

Another Gorillaz album was released in May 2005 (Demon Days). According to the band the next album will get the green light in 2006. Coxon is also preparing for another record again with Street and the same production team behind Happiness in Magazines. Considering the recent inactivity of the band and the diverse projects of Damon (working with Gorillaz), Dave (making computer cartoons) and Alex (working with Betty Boo on a band called Wigwam), the date - 2006, for a next studio project by Blur, is most probable.



Studio Albums

Index Title Date Chart Position
1st Leisure 5 August 1991 #7 (UK)
2nd Modern Life Is Rubbish 10 May 1993 #15 (UK)
3rd Parklife 25 April 1994 #1 (UK)
4th The Great Escape 11 September 1995 #1 (UK), #150 (US)
5th Blur 10 February 1997 #1 (UK), #61 (US)
6th 13 15 March 1999 #1 (UK), #80 (US)
7th Think Tank 5 May 2003 #1 (UK), #56 (US)

Compilations & Live Albums

External links

Template:Blurda:Blur de:Blur (Band) fr:Blur nl:Blur ja:ブラー pl:Blur pt:Blur fi:Blur sv:Blur


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