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Blur – Parklife [Album Review]

March 13, 2012

Girls & Boys / Tracy Jacks / End of a Century / Parklife / Bank Holiday / Badhead / The Debt Collector / Far Out / To the End / London Loves / Trouble in the Message Center / Clover over Dover / Magic America / Jubilee / This Is a Low / Lot 105

Blurs final break through album in my opinion, but what made it? i believe the song “Girls & Boys”  played a major part due to the realease of this  track rocketing Blur into their rightful places in music scene. Sounding like cheap Rock and Roll, but then adding a rough edge take from pop lyrics and beats, it’s a song that’s almost too kitschy to be true. The word “plastic” is all over it – from the mechanised drum beats, to Alex James’ jumpy bass line, to Albarn’s mega-silly chorus (“Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do boys like they’re girls who do girls like they’re boys, etc”) – but still, you’re dealing with a indisputably classic single which is quite hard to handle. Although the single and album were not the bravest renewal Blur had ever been through (in many ways, the unanticipated Modern Life was a much more drastic change), this continuation of blatantly updating the British pop-tradition worked excellent and suited their musical expertise to a tea. This time around, the mishmash of styles and sounds becomes even more electric and despite the fact that it took them only a year to make this album (compared to the three of the previous album), the songs are of a high quality if not some of their best, i knowing this they could easily be confidently performed. …And that’s an understatement, as you can tell the band  had a hit and they knew  it hits the right button and was at the top of its game if not in front of it. Parklife is an album that’s multi-layered, especially musically, with melodic hooks, catchy (backing) vocals and a whole bunch of sounds continuously entering and leaving the picture.

“Girls & Boys” is merely the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the new wave 90s inspired “Trouble in the Message Centre” (those phony synths! that laconic delivery!), the brash punk of “Bank Holiday” (their scruffiest song yet in my opinion) and the arrogant swagger of “Jubilee” that sounds as if Johnny Thunders himself stood up from the grave to join them. Even more striking are the band’s own attempts at “classic” song-writing which we haven’t seen before. Take “End of the Century,” for instance (my favourite) If that song isn’t a classic on a par with late-‘60’s Beatles or Kinks, I don’t know a thing about music. Of course, this kind of pop may not be your thing in the first place, but the affecting lyrics, tasteful guitar playing, delicious backing vocals and use of trumpet and flute turn it into a track to be cherished by all styles of music lovers. Almost as good is the title track, with deadpan verses by Phil Daniels (who starred in the movie version of The Who’s Quadrophenia) about dirty pigeons, noisy dustmen and mods. From this track, it’s a small step to the metronome-pop of “Tracy Jacks” and “London Loves,” which are way too catchy to only listen to once. Perhaps more remarkable than all the other songs on the album are the ballads. While the elegant “Badhead” (again with nice vocal harmonies) and the beautiful, harpsichord-dominated “Clover over Dover” succeed in doing what the band could only hint at on the previous album, it’s tracks like “To the End” and “This Is a Low” that are confirmation of the band’s gained mastery. “To the End” is obviously inspired by string-laden ‘60’s of the kind that turned Burt Bacharach, Dusty Springfield and Serge Gainsbourg into pop icons, therefore i can almost see this as Blurs own tribute. They Constantly balance on the thin line between gracious finesse and pop (blame it on the sexy backing vocals by Stereolab’s femme fatale Laetitia Sadier), it comes off wonderfully and it was a great – almost bold – idea to release this as the second single off of the album.

A little less tongue in cheek, but not a lesser track, is the excellent “This Is a Low.” Built upon acoustic guitars and less striking imagery created by Blurs own Grahame Coxon, it’s a subtle track with a first-class chorus that’s booming but in a way that it cant become annoying (on my opinion) and a great final chapter to an excellent album. Oh, there’s still the instrumental “Lot 105” that, like the equally silly “The Debt Collector,” is an update of the music hall-tradition, but they don’t really add anything to the album (like the “Intermission” and “Commercial Break” on Modern Life), except for another link to the past. All in all, Parklife is an album that nearly lives up to Blurs now built up legendary status. It’s not an album that hits you in the gut and it isn’t a pièce de résistance that leaves you behind baffled either. It has a few songs that go on for too long (“London Loves,” “Tracy Jacks”), one that was completely unnecessary (“Far Out”) and a few that are basically not that impressive, such as “Magic America” (we’ve heard that “Lalalala” before, too), “Jubilee” and the instrumentals, but the band proves it has progressed/matured with leaps and bounds. It’s not surprising that nowadays this album is regarded as the pinnacle of Brit-pop, or as one of the era’s classic milestones, because it boasts a sprawling diversity that would inspire a legion of imitators and paved the way for other top acts.


From → Album Review

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