Complete catalogs trump career overviews

Boxing Day


Blur 21: The Box (EMI)

Not only was Blur four albums and a jukebox full of singles into its career by the time Oasis dropped Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory? in the span of 15 months during 1994/1995, but the aforementioned London quartet had already morphed successfully from a late-Eighties collegiate band. Nevertheless, the eternally belligerent Gallagher simians saw their brute foursome crowned as Britpop's Beatles, while the longevity of Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, and rhythmic duo Alex James and Dave Rowntree now gets relegated to Rolling Stones status. "I don't hold the Oasis thing against Noel [Gallagher]," reasons Albarn in the thorough, hardbound book housed inside Blur 21. "I like him for it in a way. It shows he cared. I look at it all now as obviously drug-fueled madness, but it wasn't just the drugs fuelling it. It was some strange thing in the air that needed to be addressed." Twenty-one discs address it in explosively comprehensive detail for The Box, all seven of Blur's full-lengths now doubled by a brimming parallel disc of era singles, B-sides, demos, and live swaths. Pastoral, psychedelic – pompous – 1991 debut Leisure absorbs Mancunian dance mulch ("Bang"), yet it's Trainspotting piano mash "Sing" that stretches for something beyond a seven-minute ascension. 1993 follow-up Modern Life Is Rubbish slips sophomoric, two of its singles on the bonus CD accounting for 12 songs better than the entirety of the album, including "Sing" sibling "Bone Bag" and a cover of Mod Rod's "Maggie May." Parklife goes mainstream in 1994, outing Albarn's modern Ray Davies embodiment, which finally lands Blur its first UK No. 1 the following year with The Great Escape, harder, more blunt, but purely Kinksian in hit singles "Country House" and "Charmless Man." Blur then goes superstar on "Song 2" ("wah-hoo!"), in the wake of which the band flounders badly (1999's electro wash 13) until 2003 reunion Think Tank interpolates Albarn's offshoot triumphs in the Good the Bad & the Queen and Gorillaz. Ten-thousand hours of Blur prepared him for contemporary global stardom beginning in Mali. Four more discs of rarities, including material by Blur precursor Seymour, and a trio of DVDs with two concerts (1994/1999) and more than four hours of video testify to the care and completeness contained in The Box. And the second wave Britpop MBE goes to ... who else? B-l-u-r.


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