25 years ago this month, Blur released their debut album Leisure. The album was the start of a glorious future for the four-piece Britpop group, whose impressive discography currently includes eight studio albums and twenty-nine singles. Because Blur has so many songs, the band’s B-sides and album tracks are sometimes overlooked. This list aims to right that wrong. Here are ten fantastic Blur songs that never made it big like “Song 2,” but undeniably deserve recognition and praise.
B-side of “She’s So High” (1990)
Available on the 2012 special edition of Leisure
“I Know” is undoubtedly one of the best products of Blur’s Leisure era. Although its jaunty guitars, flippant lyrics, and upbeat percussion may draw comparisons to the more famous “There’s No Other Way,” this song has something that the other doesn’t: a memorable Alex James bass line that’s sure to seize listeners’ attention. The extended mix of the song features long instrumental sections, but never gets dull.
from Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)
“Advert,” the loud, brash second track on Modern Life Is Rubbish, is one of Blur’s most entertaining social commentaries. The song begins with a recording of an unnaturally happy man saying, “Food processors are great!” After that, it launches into a frenzy of brash guitars and clever lyrics that mock the advertising industry’s tempting whispers. Unabashedly fun and far from preachy, “Advert” is truly enlightening.
B-side of “Chemical World” (1993)
Available on the 2012 Special Edition of Modern Life Is Rubbish
“Young and Lovely” is arguably the best song that didn’t make the final version of Modern Life Is Rubbish. An optimistic, perceptive ballad about starry-eyed adolescents “kicking around in the center of the town,” it moves along as gracefully as a confident teenager striding down a sun-washed sidewalk. Each verse, laced with delicate twinkling sounds, sets the tone for a climactic chorus that’s hard not to sing along to.
from The Great Escape (1995)
It’s a shock that the flawless track “He Thought of Cars” was never a single. Perhaps its dark tone prevented it from receiving the distinction. The verses form a gloomy montage of the world’s dilapidation; the chorus subverts listeners’ expectations of the usually jubilant exclamation “la la la” by turning it into a dismal expression of resignation. This is the kind of song that makes you stop and think—especially when listened to while driving alone.
from Blur (1997)
The steady beat and gritty guitars of “I’m Just A Killer for Your Love” conjure up images of Jeeps bouncing through deserts with their windows down. In other words, this is one of those songs that’s simply cool without trying too hard to be. Damon Albarn’s nonchalant vocal delivery is perfectly suited for this gem’s matter-of-fact, slightly absurd lyrics. When he sings backup in falsetto, his voice cracks, adding to the song’s rough, raw feel.
from 13 (1999)
On every Blur album, there’s a song (or two) in which the band forgoes all restraint and becomes the glorious sonic equivalent of a million kindergarteners stomping on LEGO towers. “B.L.U.R.E.M.I.” is one of those songs. Some of the intriguing elements that make this track special are a bizarre ambient intro, a Donald Duck voice, a melodica solo, a key change, heavy use of assonance, and a section that involves the rapid repetition of the word “chopper” (at least that’s what it sounds like; no one online has deciphered the lyrics). Performed by a less talented band, it would be a train wreck; performed by Blur, it’s a train that flies off the rails, sprouts wings, and sails through the sky before landing safely at its destination.
from 13 (1999)
“Trailerpark,” a track from Blur’s innovative album 13, is the kind of song you need to listen to twice. At first, its beeping and screeching noises are off-putting; then they meld beautifully with Graham Coxon’s brash guitar riff and Dave Rowntree’s hip-hop-esque percussion to create a unique type of masterpiece. When Damon Albarn sings the melody, he sounds perfectly blasé; when he harmonizes with himself, his voice cracks with emotion, adding another dimension to this ingenious sonic experiment. The song’s style foreshadows the music that Albarn would later create through Gorillaz.
Available on the 2012 Special Edition of 13
First appearing on Parklife, “Far Out” is by no means your average Blur composition. First of all, it’s sung by bassist Alex James instead of frontman Damon Albarn. Second of all, the lyrics are purely about astronomy. There is no social commentary here; no metaphor. The song is simply a list of moons and stars, and its cheery, science-loving spirit is uniquely uplifting. The 1999 Beagle 2 remix, which replaces the ambient noise of the Parklife original with bouncy guitars, will surely inspire you to run to the nearest department store and buy a telescope.
The remix was named after the Beagle 2, a craft that was intended to explore the Martian surface and launched by the European Space Agency as part of the Mars Express project. Blur had recorded a composition intended as a call-sign for the Beagle 2, but the spacecraft was lost shortly after it was deployed in December 2003. Its wreckage on the Martian surface was not found until 2015.
Available as a stand-alone single (2012)
“Under the Westway” charted well in the UK when it was released. Nevertheless, its identity as a standalone single sometimes makes fans forget how great it is (especially those of us in the U.S.). The song was written for Blur’s companion concert to the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, but it sounds almost like a tribute to the band’s past. Musically, it evokes majestic ballads like “The Universal.” Lyrically, it contains many themes from earlier Blur songs, from the anti-shallowness of “Advert” to the British pride of “For Tomorrow.” The song’s pleasantly repetitive melody, ethereal backing vocals, resounding drums, and twinkling piano give it an anthemic quality.
from The Magic Whip (2015)
Every second of “Pyongyang” is impressive. The six-minute epic, which sounds like the dramatic finale to a rock opera, begins ominously with a ringing bell and a haunting guitar riff. When Damon Albarn finally starts to sing about his stay in North Korea, his voice is heavy with awareness of the fragility of the future. The song’s outro gives the listener ample time to reflect on the song’s pensive lyrics, which include vivid metaphors like “the mausoleum’s fallen.”
What are your favorite Blur songs? Let us know in the comments!