1989, Colchester, England
Through some reinvention, Blur reclaimed their position as an art-pop band in
the late '90s by incorporating indie-rock and lo-fi influences, which finally
gave them their elusive American success in 1997.
Originally called Seymour, the group was formed in London in 1989 by vocalist/keyboardist
Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, and bassist Alex James, with drummer Dave
Rowntree joining the lineup shortly afterward. After performing a handful of gigs
and recording a demo tape, the band signed to Food Records, a subsidiary of EMI
run by journalist Andy Ross and former Teardrop Explodes keyboardist Dave Balfe.
Released in 1992, the snarling
"Pop Scene" was Blur's first attempt at changing their musical direction.
the single's commercial failure, the group began work on their second album, Modern
Life Is Rubbish,
After spending nearly a year in the studio, the band delivered the album to Food.
The record company rejected the album, declaring that it needed a hit single.
Blur went back into the studio and recorded Albarn's "For Tomorrow," which would
turn out to be a British hit. Food was ready to release the record, but the group's
U.S. record company, SBK, believed there was no American hit single on the record
and asked them to return to the studio.
Modern Life Is Rubbish turned out to be a dry run for Blur's breakthrough album, Parklife. Released in April 1994, Parklife entered the charts at number one and catapulted the band to stardom in Britain. The stylized new wave dance-pop single "Girls and Boys," entered the charts at number five; the single managed to spend 15 weeks in 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. With the success of Parklife, Blur opened the door for a flood of British indie-guitar bands that dominated British pop culture in the mid-'90s. Oasis, Elastica, Pulp, the Boo Radleys, Supergrass, Gene, Echobelly, Menswear, and numerous other bands all benefited from the band's success.
By the beginning of 1995, Parklife had gone triple platinum and the band had become 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 admist a flurry of media attention because Albarn had 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 backfired. Although Blur 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 with their second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, completely overshadowing the follow-up to Parklife, The Great Escape. While 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 break the American market, where Oasis had been particularly successful.
In the face of negative press and weak public support, Blur nearly broke-up in early 1996, but they instead decided to spend the entire year out of the spotlight. By the end of the year, Albarn was declaring 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 manifested themselves on Blur's fifth album, Blur, which was released in February of 1997 to generally positive reviews. The band's reinvention wasn't greeted warmly in the UK -- the album and its first single, "Beetlebum," debuted at number one and quickly fell down the charts, as the group's mass audience didn't completely accept their new incarnation.
However, the band's revamped sound earned them an audience in the US, where Blur received strong reviews and became a moderate hit, thanks largely to the popularity of the single "Song 2." The success in America eventually seeped over to Britain, and by the spring, the album had bounced back up the charts. 13 followed in 1999.
In 2002 Graham Coxon left the band, after some "falling out" with fellow members. Graham felt that the band was being run more like a business than a band. His solo efforts have been received with some positive critical acclaim. Well done GC.
February 2003 Blur bounced back the album - Think Tank
a four year hiatus, Blur came back with their seventh studio album, Think Tank,
which was released by Parlophone in 2003. Begun in the bandís London studio 13
late in 2001, the Think Tank sessions moved southwards when the band packed up
the entire studio and migrated to Marrakech for September and October in 2002.