As they enter another dormant period in their legendary career, we reassess Blur’s singles to reflect on which tracks have retained their magic.
10 Go Out
After the sonic sojourns of their later records, the lead track from ‘The Magic Whip’ wrapped an arm round old Blur and another round new Blur and asked if they were so different, after all. Relatively trad, the track smuggles in just enough spacey warps and manic whirrs to keep a jittery handle on ‘Parklife’ and ‘Think Tank’ zealots alike.
9 To the End
A resplendent breakup ballad plucked from the heart of ‘Parklife’, ‘To the End’ makes living crappily ever after sound like the best thing since love everlasting. Check the French version featuring Francoise Hardy to lift your sunken heart into an amorous reverie.
8 No Distance Left to Run
If ‘No Distance Left to Run’ seems an odd single choice, excavated from 1999’s majestic ‘13’, the passage of time has validated it as one of Blur’s crowning achievements. Shorn of volume, velocity and any tangible chorus, the tune sounds like the long, empty sigh that follows a car-crash breakup. Damon has scarcely sounded more adorable.
Tapping into the timeless rock tradition of heroin ballads cloaked in the language of love, ‘Beetlebum’ lusts after an ambiguous muse who “turns me on/ I just slip away and I am gone”. Damo’s best work came once he’d flushed out the smack, but this masterful Beatles pastiche- their second Number One single – is an undeniably sweet hit.
6 Song 2
You might know this one. Released in 1997, Blur’s eminent head-banger shot from their self-titled fifth album at 300mph and hasn’t stopped, careening into indie discos and karaoke machines with enough turbulent velocity to obliterate, for two glorious minutes, your crushing awareness that the ‘90s ended, youth fades and you’ll never be a rock star.
Just as we’d acclimatised to Britpop’s sudden burnout, 1999 saw Blur flip the tables and reemerge as rock’s shining saviours. While songs like ‘Girls and Boys’ perfectly capture a fleeting moment in time, ‘Tender’ is their earliest single that stands up on its own merits, a triumphant, gospel-backed sermon on the virtues of musical reinvention.
4 Good Song
Half a decade after the Britpop boom, Blur’s 2003 album ‘Think Tank’ riled a clutch of fans, who felt betrayed by Damo and co’s arrogant pursuit of a musical style that didn’t taste of the previous decade’s leftover Foster’s. Not everything came off, but ‘Good Song’’s twinkly, music-box lullaby proves they’d found a beguiling space station to call home.
3 Girls and Boys
Disco bass pops, pro-LGBT lyrics and an impossibly addictive to-me-to-you chorus – ‘Girls and Boys’ is the defining Britpop anthem. Not just a commercial breakthrough for the group, who springboarded into the pop culture stratosphere off its back, the track also made NME’s 1994 single of the year. Which is obviously a way bigger deal.
2 Out of Time
After a four-year hiatus, Britpop’s washed-out conquerors returned with this off-brand slow-burner, the surprise lead single from ‘Think Tank’. Draped in moody curtains of Moroccan street-music, ‘Out of Time’ magically thrusts Damon’s romantic resignation into a delicate, geographically displaced tale of modern ennui, melting all but the stoniest hearts.
1 Coffee and TV
We’re as susceptible to Damo’s charms as anyone, but let’s face it, ‘Coffee and TV’ sees the boy Coxon hit a home run so hard his hands are still shaking. Painting love and domesticity as an alternative to alcoholism, Coxon’s jaded, office-drone mewl meanders towards a priceless payoff: “Take me away from this big bad world/ And agree to marry me”. Boyish charm personified.