Tonight's secret show for fanclub members and invited glitteratti only showcases the new album bar a few tracks...

ALEX pulls faces all the way through [a]Battle[/a] – he’s always looked bored playing live but this time he’s giving Graham the heavy eyebrow treatment from across the room. Perhaps it’s because he’s trying to put him off or perhaps it’s a ‘I told you we should have stuck with the knees up songs’. Either way despite being in the heavily artificial studio environment playing an album with more than a few arch, arty songs they look as human as they’ve ever been. A little too human at times perhaps – as Damon bends to get his guitar you can see two clear inches of builder’s crack.

The thing is [a]Battle[/a], ‘Trailer Park’ and ‘Trimm Trabb’ aren’t about anything – the former in particular floats around ambling after its own tail for a few minutes then hits turbo boost for the last minute and finishes. You’re not supposed to write songs like that. It says so in the big book ‘How To Be A Pop Star’. But they’re superb exercises in why you should dispense with the rulebook occasionally.

Plus there’s two pop-punk balls of bile in Bugman and BLUREMI and ‘classic songwriting sensibility’ () serious proper music fans) in ‘Coffee And TV’.

Strangely it’s the second that really does the business; it probably took 14 seconds to write Damon‘s shouty ruminations on the pop group mincing machine but it compresses more fun into three minutes than you can cram into a night with Noel Edmonds and a bucketful of torture implements.

Tonight’s secret show for fanclub members and invited glitteratti only (look there’s Boy George er… that’s it) showcases the new album bar a few tracks.

It’s clear after the ‘Great Escape’ debacle that Graham‘s got his way while Alex has turned from suave Champagne-sipping dilettante to gone-to-seed PE teacher in a matter of months. At this rate he’ll be a pizza-chomping TV slob by May and Tiny from Ultrasound by June.

Graham is dependable as ever – thrashing the guitar making scratching noises and, gulp, singing. Yes, in the post-punk singalong of ‘Coffee And TV’ the shy one seize lead vocals and there’s a moment when you have to seriously consider the possibility that Damon isn’t the best singer in the world. Or indeed in Blur.

Oblivious to this Damon performs to his utmost – it may be ‘intimate’ surroundings but this isn’t any soulless Unplugged session – this is the full punkrockjumpingaroundscreamingmalarky juxtaposed with unprecedented and touching exposes of the fragments of his relationship with Justine Elastica in ‘Tender’ and ‘No Distance Left To Run’.

The set falls short with ‘Mellow Song’ which screams B-SIDE – it’s a sketch of a doodle of an idea. It doesn’t look much on paper because it’s not and while the re-recording injects it with a little less sloppiness it’s still wanting

Finishing off with ‘Beetlebum’, an explosive unfilmed ‘Popscene’ and the latest Blur albatross, ‘Song 2’, the only disappointment of the night is the knowledge that ’13’ is an album that needs touring but is going to be confined to a handful of one off gigs.

[I]The show is broadcast on the 26th March on BBC2 at 11.15pm.[/I]