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Blur - Midlife: A Beginner's Guide to Blur


Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur

(Virgin Records)

To help introduce Blur to a wider audience, Virgin brings us Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur, which earns its scholarly name by being a curious best-of compilation. If you’re looking to be blindsided by a pack of hits, this disc isn’t for you. (2000’s The Best of Blur would be more fitting.) Instead, Midlife attempts to give a general feel of the band, and tries to display Blur’s knack for making albums more than their knack for making singles. This isn’t to imply a lack of hits—most of the band’s biggest songs are here—but thrown in beside them are deeper album cuts that are more admired by avid fans than by the singles charts.

Songs like the lush “Blue Jeans” and the foreboding “Death of a Party” help show that the band offers more than the razor-sharp, cheeky pop they became famous for. To the uninitiated (namely Americans), they hint at some of the depth and daring that makes Blur such a great band.

Being a best-of, there is also quite a display of the blessed hand they have for pop, and unlike the previous best-of, it actually documents how Blur came into their own, and spends more time on their breakthrough LP, Modern Life is Rubbish. Songs such as “Girl and Boys” and “The Universal” are fine examples of the band as Brit-pop masters, but songs such as “Chemical World” and the elusive “Popscene” shows how they got there, and how they pretty much started the genre.

The album’s approach isn’t perfect, however: Though its left turns give the album an organic feel, it strays from its purpose by bewilderingly including a few tracks that are weak, at least by comparison. In particular, the songs from the disappointing Think Tank never hold up, and to have three tracks from an album that didn’t even have Graham Coxon (a vital member) in the band is undeniably a mistake. There are some bizarre choices, such as the frantic “Bug Man” and the spacey “Strange News from Another Star.” These are fine songs, but even as deeper album cuts lack focus, and in no way should have replaced greats such as “Country House” or “End of a Century,” which are sorely missing.

It’s these oversights that make Midlife a better introduction than a representation. Fans will undoubtedly see gaping holes in the collection, but with its abundance of quality, initiates will hopefully see Midlife as a reason to get into one of the greatest bands Britain has to offer.

geoffrey anstey

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