The music world was all a-flutter last night as Blur played two new songs on a roof somewhere in West London, which were then streamed across the web. The story goes that the tunes aren’t the start of a new album, but instead new tracks for the Olympic Closing Ceremony gig the band are headlining at Hyde Park. Both are very different, representing the two sides of this band that, on this evidence, are enduring more in the affections of the wider world than any other from the 90s [dodges glasses of piss from Oasis fans].
Under The Westway
Really, this is a wonderful song. To listen to it and not be affected is surely to admit that you enjoy the vicarious torture of 6 week old Pomeranian puppies every second Sunday. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Blur ballad, following in the rich tradition of For Tomorrow, The Universal and Tender. Opening with a gently shuddering guitar lick and the tinkle of bells, it wends its way to a melancholy piano and an opening line that further solidifies Damon’s place as the true heir to Ray Davies: “There were blue skies in my city today/Everything was sinking/Said snow would come on Sunday.” You’d say it was Waterloo Sunset Mark 2, if they hadn’t already done that with For Tomorrow.
Things continue ever so gently, and though there isn’t a chorus in the “oh my baby” sense it doesn’t need it ‘cos it’s all a singalong. They’ve managed to put together a genuinely powerful ballad that will unite both the Coldplay brigade, and those that would rather be seen dead than pump a fist to Paradise. It’s an achievement, and shows just why they were selected to close such a high profile event as the Closing Ceremony gig, when there are plenty of British names that have a wider commercial profile.
The song peaks with this little run: “The last Post sounds just like a love song/ For the way I feel about you/Paradise not lost in you/On a permanent basis I apologise/ But I am gonna sing/Hallelujah/Sing it out loud and sing it to ya.” Whatever your musical poison there’s some pretty universal sentiments right there, and they will shoot shivers across the shoulder blades of everyone watching in Hyde Park on the 12th.
If Under The Westway showcases Blur at their most crowd-friendly, The Puritan has them back in the realms of the skittery indie of the Blur album. It’s very easy to claim it as a Coxon-driven track, and there probably is some truth in that but to and to pigeonhole it so readily is perhaps a disservice to Albarn who has overseen three huge-selling Gorillaz albums that have all drawn heavily on hip-hop and downbeat electro.
Opening with some scuzzy synths, it explodes in a crash of keys and strings whilst Albarn slurs “and the ice and gold/is just another code/it’s a metaphor/for all the things that fashion gives you.” The lighters-in-the-air romanticism of Under The Westway are a mile away, but the band manage to tease a chorus out of it, even if it is in the pure “la la la” form.
It’s a tune that will have the purists singing from the rafters- Damon has alluded to it being a return to older Blur tracks, mixed with some of work with the Gorillaz. The disparate electronics and somewhat muffled lyrics bear truth with the latter part of this statement, but we’re not dealing with Aphex Twin here and there’s more than enough for the casual or not-so-casual Blur fan.
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