Best of (Virgin)
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., Dec. 8, 2000
Best of (Virgin)Blur are Brit-pop's resident survivors, holding onto their guitars for dear life in the tide of DJ-spawned musique concrete that's seeped into rock since the Madchester days. (Don't expect Radiohead to come sprinting to their aid anytime soon.) After years of practicing those ever-so-arch upper-lip curls, they made Joey Moshpit shout "whoo-hoo!" with 1997's "Song 2," then flipped him a tacit two-fingered salute with the grimacing, acoustic-tempered fragility of 1999's "Coffee & TV." In the words of "Charmless Man," "na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-nah"! There's almost enough cheek to cover up how much, on some early Best of cuts, they wanted to be the Stone Roses. "She's So High"? No kidding. "There's No Other Way"? Indeed. Whoever started the vicious rumor that rock belongs to nice people, who maybe get up before noon, it wasn't Blur. Lyrics like "the Queen, she's gone round the bend" would probably be worth a pop in the mouth in some posh quarters. Being in a rock & roll band is hard work, man. Bobbing your head from side to side while you work over a savory riff like on "On Your Own" really takes it out of you, right Graham Coxon? But after being submerged in the gelatinous depths of "This Is a Low," who wants to come up for air? Perhaps only Jarvis Cocker newsgroupies will soar with the methodically lush "Beetlebum" or "Give Peace a Chance" chorus of "Tender," and while Damon Albarn's near ohm-chanting on "The Universal" is a bit iffy, try to keep from grinning on "Country House." Best of all, Blur are never too highbrow to rock. If you don't think so, pay more attention to Coxon on "Parklife." At their best, Blur are limb-flailing evidence that rock & roll can still transcend everyday cultural ennui, even the notoriously virulent boy-girl variety. Still not convinced after 18 songs? Try the bonus 10-track live disc, recorded at Wembley Arena in December 1999, that really shines on "Girls and Boys," "Stereotypes," "End of the Century," and the terrific squall of "M.O.R.," a recent one that's the antithesis of easy-listening love handles. Fitting, then, that Best of nears the end of its 77 minutes with the bouncing-ball refrain "trying not to be sick again and holding on for tomorrow." First (and last), however, there's tonight, another trip to the club on 2000's "Music Is My Radar." On a dime, the lads have gone all "Idioteque," and -- whaddya know? -- it feels so good.