Members: Damon Albarn, Alex James, Dave Rowntree
Blur are an English rock band. Originally called Seymour, Blur formed in Colchester in 1989 at the Goldsmiths College from the remnants of a band called Circus by vocalist/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/backing vocalist Graham Coxon and drummer Dave Rowntree, with bassist Alex James joining the lineup.
Blur were one of the English bands who appeared in the wake of the Stone Roses's eponymous album, mixing psychedelic pop rock with very loud guitars. Following an image change in the mid-'90s, the group emerged as one of the most popular bands in the UK, establishing themselves as heir to the English pop tradition of the Kinks, the Small Faces, the Who, the Jam, Madness, and the Smiths. In the process, the group broke open the doors for a new generation of bands who became labelled as Britpop. Blur were one of the leaders of the Britpop movement, but they quickly became bound to it; since they were one of its biggest bands, they nearly fell apart when the movement itself subdued. Through some reinvention, Blur reclaimed their position as an art pop rock band in the late 1990s by incorporating pseudo-indie-rock and lo-fi influences of the American bands in the style of Pavement and R.E.M., which finally gave them their elusive American success in 1997.
In 2002, founding member and main creative force Graham Coxon left the band, during recording sessions for their latest album Think Tank. The band soldiered on and saw the project through in 2003 and also toured hiring guitarist Simon Tong of The Verve. Since the end of the tour in 2003 the band is mostly inactive as Albarn and his bandmates are working more on solo projects than recording as a band. Coxon also had shown little to no interest to work with Blur and has devoted his energy to his solo career.
After "She's So High", the group's first single, made it into the Top 50 - Morrissey producer Stephen Street contacted the band and proposed to them to produce their album. The band agreed, and this would be considered a very wise move, considering the band's later success. The partnership between Blur and Street would be incredibly successful and would last for the next half-decade. Street's exceptional production help, which aided the band immensely on their way to stardom, often lead to him being dubbed the band's fifth member by fans and press.
The follow-up to "She's So High", "There's No Other Way", went Top Ten. Both singles were included on their debut album, Leisure. Although it received good reviews, the album managed to fit into both the dying Madchester pop scene and the Baggy scene, causing some journalists and music critics to dismiss the band as manufactured teen idols. During a tour of America, documented in the film Starshaped, the group became increasingly unhappy, often venting frustrations on each other, leading to several violent confrontations. For a couple of years, Blur struggled to abandon this title and prove the critics wrong. Their next single was called 'Bang',which was a massive underground hit.
The band (and especially Albarn) began to formulate the idea of an album directed against American culture, originally titled Blur vs America, which they began work on on their return to the UK. XTC's Andy Partridge was originally slated to produce the follow-up of Leisure - which later became Modern Life Is Rubbish. However the relationship between him and the band soon deteriorated, so Street was again brought in to produce the record. After spending nearly a year in the studio, the band delivered the album to Food records.
The song "Popscene" ? branded as the herald of the Britop boom ? was recorded and to be featured on Moddern Life. It was released on March 30, 1992 as a stand alone single, charting at #32 in the UK Singles Chart. It was dropped from the album and the record company rejected the album, declaring that it needed a hit single. The song It was later reinstated for the American version and the Japanese re-issue of the album. The band went back into the studio and recorded "For Tomorrow", which turned out to be a British hit. Food were ready to release the record, but their U.S. record company, SBK, said there was no American hit single on the record and asked them to return to the studio. They angrily complied and recorded "Chemical World" which pleased SBK for a short while; the song would become a minor alternative hit in the U.S. and charted at number 28 in the UK Modern Life was set for release in the spring of 1993, when SBK asked Blur to re-record the album with producer Butch Vig (Nirvana and Sonic Youth). Understandably angry and irritated by the suggestion the band refused. The record was released in May in Britain; it appeared in the United States that Autumn. Often cited as the first Britpop album, Modern Life Is Rubbish received good reviews in Britain, peaking at number 15 on the charts, yet it failed to make much of an impression in the U.S.
Modern Life... turned out to be a dry run for Blur's breakthrough album - Parklife, whose East End stylings were inspired by Martin Amis' London Fields. The follow-up entered the charts at number one and catapulted the band to stardom in Britain. The new wave dance-pop single "Girls & Boys" entered the charts at number five; the single managed to spend 15 weeks on the U.S. charts, peaking at number 52, but the album never cracked the charts. It was a completely different story in Britain, as Blur had a string of hit singles, including the ballad "To the End" and the mod anthem "Parklife", which featured narration by Phil Daniels, the star of the film version of the Who's Quadrophenia.
With the success of Parklife, Blur opened the door for many British bands who dominated the British pop culture in the mid-'90s and which were labelled as Britpop. Elastica, Pulp, the Boo Radleys, Supergrass, Gene, The Verve, Echobelly, Menswe@r, Mansun, Radiohead and numerous other bands all benefited from the band's success. By the beginning of 1995, Parklife went triple platinum and the band became superstars. The group spent the first half of 1995 recording their fourth album and playing various one-off concerts, including a sold-out stadium show. February of that year saw Blur receive a yet unbeaten 4 awards at the Brit awards, for best album (Parklife), best video (Parklife), best single (Parklife) and best British group.
Blur released "Country House", the first single from their new album, in August amidst much media attention, as Albarn had requested the single's release moved up a week to compete with the release of "Roll With It", a new single from Blur's chief rivals, Oasis - sparking the much hyped "Battle of Britpop". The strategy however backfired, as even though the band won the battle, with "Country House" beating "Roll With It" to become the group's first number one single, they ultimately lost the war, as Oasis became Britain's biggest band at the time with their second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, overshadowing Blur's fourth The Great Escape. While The Great Escape entered the UK charts at number one and earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, it sold in smaller numbers, and by the beginning of 1996, Blur were seen as has-beens, especially since they once again failed to make impression on the American market, where Oasis had been successful.
In the face of negative press and weak public support, Blur nearly broke up in February 1996, following a drug-fuelled scuffle between chief artists Coxon and Albarn. The band decided to take a rest between the end of touring in March and the beginning of recording their fifth album in summer. Blur started recording the follow-up to The Great Escape in summer and finished in late autumn. Meanwhile, relations in the band significantly improved and in December, the album was swiftly mixed and mastered. By the end of 1996, Albarn's interests had changed from British music to American indie rock (particularly Pavement and R.E.M.) and lo-fi - genres that Graham Coxon had been supporting for years. These influences were evident in Blur's eponymous fifth album, Blur, which was released in February 1997 to plaudits, nearly rivalling that of Parklife.
However the band's reinvention didn't earn them initially warm reviews in UK - the album and the first single, "Beetlebum" (said to be heavily influenced by American indie band Pavement and Albarn's longtime girlfriend and Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann's heroin addiction) debuted at number one but quickly fell down the charts - as the group's mass audience didn't all accept this incarnation. In the U.S. the record received strong reviews and the album and its second single "Song 2" became a large hit, helped by its popularity as a pre-match anthem at ice hockey games. The album reached #61 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, while "Song 2" peaked at #6 on the magazine's Modern Rock chart. "Song 2" continues to have legs, frequently being played at U.S. sports events, though it has also branded Blur as a one hit wonder. The album wasn't making much of an impression in Britain until Autumn of that year, partly because during this time Radiohead and The Verve had released their monumental albums OK Computer and Urban Hymns and critics, fans and press didn't pay much attention to Blur. The Album's American success was eventually repeated in Britain and by the end of the year Blur bounced back into the charts. It show-cased the natural evolution of the band beyond their roots, while combining earlier work in a successful blend of Britpop and American lo-fi, which came as a stark contrast to the much-criticized third album Be Here Now by their old rivals Oasis
1998-2001 13 AND ON HIATUS WITH SOLO PROJECTS
As the Britpop movement disintegrated, the band decided to take a different approach to their next album, so they parted ways with long-time producer and collaborator Stephen Street, who helped immensely in establishing the band. However, many fans weren't so happy about it and criticized the band. Nevertheless, in 1999, Blur returned with 13, a more mature album than any of their previous records. It was lyrically dominated by the end of Albarn's turbulent relationship with Justine Frischmann, Elastica frontwoman, as well as their battles with heavy heroin and alcohol addictions provoked by that relationship. Graham Coxon had even bigger artistical input, contributing vocals to some of the songs, including the hit single "Coffee & TV", and designing the cover of the sleeve. Darker in tone, the album was received very well, although not as well as their Britpop records.
Exhausted by incessant recording and touring through the world, the band took a hiatus, pausing only to release a box set of Blur's singles in late 2000 to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Albarn said that as they didn't stop for a decade, they needed a break. For a couple of years members of Blur engaged in a variety of side-projects around this time: Coxon made a number of solo albums, Alex James joined actor Keith Allen and artist Damien Hirst (who had both contributed their talents to the video for Blur's single, "Country House" earlier) to form Fat Les, while Albarn formed the cartoon supergroup Gorillaz, who released their self-titled debut album. Albarn also travelled to Mali on behalf of Oxfam, producing the fundraising album Mali Music.
Recording for their next album had just got under way in Marrakesh, Morocco, middle 2002, but tensions between Coxon and the rest of the band escalated during them. It appeared Coxon had already grown distant emotionally, personally and creatively, from his bandmates, as he was reported to have failed to attend recording sessions. He was apparently unhappy at the choice of dance DJ Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) as the sessions' producer. After several weeks of rumour and uncertainty, Coxon confirmed that he had been asked to leave the band for reasons connected with his "attitude" at a time when he had given up a heavy alcohol habit. Since then Albarn had said that the door is always opened for Graham to return, but a possible project or a collaborative work of the full line-up is not very likely in the foreseeable future. Coxon only appears on the final track of the album "Battery in your leg" which Albarn said was the only song he ever wrote about the band.
Albarn later told an interviewer that there had been a big struggle between himself and Coxon. The album resulting from the sessions, Think Tank, was released in May 2003 to mostly favourable reviews and was nominated for Best British Album at the 2004 Brit awards. Albarn later followed the album with his first solo album Democrazy, which however was only a special edition release with few copies. Ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong has been standing in place of Coxon on live dates.
2004-PRESENT ON HIATUS AGAIN
The band said in interviews that they might record a new album in 2004, but it was canceled as Albarn and the rest of the band devoted their energy for solo projects. He released a follow-up Gorillaz album Demon Days in May 2005, which received significant praise, followed by "Demon Days"-world tour 2005-2006. In early 2006, Gorillaz picked a Grammy award, for "Pop Collaboration With Vocals" for "Feel Good Inc". Meanwhile the hiatus, Coxon realigned with Stephen Street, to craft his most successful, accessible and arguably best solo albums up to date Happiness in Magazines (May 17, 2004) and Love Travels at Illegal Speeds (March 13, 2006).
Blur apparently will continue as a three-piece as Graham Coxon's lack of interest towards his former band still persists. The band aren't working regularly on a new album as bandmembers are throwing more energy on their own solo endavours, although in an interview with New Musical Express in early 2006, Alex James briefly threw out some of the band's newest material was sounding similar to the Foo Fighters. Albarn also has dismissed the idea of getting a new guitarist to replace the long departed Graham Coxon saying, "What?s the point? We?d never be able to get one as good as Graham!"
In late July, Albarn announced his intention to start a band with Tong, Clash bassist Paul Simonon, and drummer Tony Allen. While the band is still nameless, it is expected to release an album entitled "The Good, the Bad and the Queen" in January 2007. A tour launch and the album's first single are expected in October. Alex James is working with Betty Boo in a band called WigWam. They recently released their single 'WigWam' and are currently set to release an album soon. Dave Rowntree is working as drummer and occasionally instrumentalist and vocalist for The Ailerons.
1991 - Leisure
1993 - Modern Life Is Rubbish -
1994 - Parklife
1995 - The Great Escape
1997 - Blur
1999 - 13
2003 - Think Tank
Submitted by OptimusPrime at Tue 29 Aug, 2006 7:36 am
Last updated by OptimusPrime at Tue 29 Aug, 2006 7:36 am