Saturday, July 25th, 2009
CONTEST – Midlife: A Beginner's Guide To Blur
amazon.comSo Blur threw a bucket of cold water on those of us who’d been following along with their triumphant 2009 reunion shows at home, hoping against hope that rumours from earlier this Summer that they were considering extending the love-in across the Atlantic if not this year then next would be true. The Guardian quotes bassist Alex James as telling the BBC that despite the rapturous response to the shows, the band had no plans of “doing anything else whatsoever”. Cold water, indeed.
And so it seems a bit ironic that they’re releasing a new compilation in Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide To Blur, out next week, in that if someone is to just now discover Blur – where can they take that? Certainly not to a show. Perhaps they can take it to the previous Blur compilation, 2000’s The Best Of Blur. Though a decade separates the two, there’s been only one studio album in that span – the Graham Coxon-less Think Tank – which makes the necessity of a second best-of questionable.
“But!”, the pedant might shout out, “this isn’t a best-of!” – and to be fair, Midlife does not claim to be so, but instead an introduction to the band. And in that sense, it actually succeeds quite well. Whereas the “best of” epithet mandated that the 2000 compilation boast the band’s chart-toppers and poppier material, which it did nicely – buying it persuaded me to catch up on all the studio albums while keeping the comp for quick hits and the live bonus disc – being a “beginner’s guide” allows Midlife to shed some of the ear candy for more difficult but perhaps more rewarding deep cuts, emphasizing the band’s artier side and also acknowledging the existence of Think Tank. If this were someone’s first introduction to the band, they would come away with the impression that they were an eclectic art-rock band with the ability to make big-league hooks rather than a radio-ready pop band with a weird streak. Neither of these is wrong, which is one of the things that makes Blur so interesting, with both comps taking different perspectives on the band.
And not that you need both, but if you did, there wouldn’t be that much overlap. Ten songs appear on both, but Midlife boasts 25 across two discs and in all honesty, “Blue Jeans”, “Chemical World” and “Popscene” are more welcome than “On Your Own”, “There’s No Other Way” or “Country House” are missed. If they’d only found a way to include “To The End” and “End Of A Century”, Midlife would be hands-down the one to have if you had room for only one jewel case in your CD collection (humour me and pretend you still have a CD collection), though the Best Of artwork is still far and away tops. But really, the thing to do is go out and buy their entire catalog. Except Think Tank. You probably don’t need that.
To the contest part of this post, courtesy of EMI Records, I have three copies of the Midlife compilation to give away, so if you want, leave a comment below stating which single Blur song you would use to introduce and indoctrinate a newcomer to the band and why. Be sure to include your email address so I get in touch with the winner. This contest will close at midnight, August 1, and is open to residents of North America. You in the UK, you got the live shows – you don’t get the comp. Those of us here have to make do with the recordings of the gigs, like this one that closed out Glastonbury. Le sigh.