Thursday, 25 April 2019

Blur - Parklife

Very probably the album that heralded the arrival of Britpop to a mass audience, 'Parklife' was released 25 years ago.
And despite the overplaying of the title track, how does the album stand up now?
Debut album 'Leisure' was a relative disappointment, and whilst the theme's of 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' were an attempt to regain lost ground, it perhaps came a couple of years to early.
In truth, neither the band or the public were prepared for the accomplishment or acclaim for this album.

The opener "Girls & Boys" (the single that preceded the album's release) always sounds like it's on the wrong album to me - a story of Club18-30-esque hedonism.  It initially sounds like a sop to the record company for a hit, and doesn't have that Britpoppy-Geezerish tone of the rest of the album.
But .. if we pretend we are psuedo-intellectuals and look for meaning, or consider 'Parklife' as a concept album (as if anyone would?), the lagered-up partying sort of "fits" such a concept.

And yet within 3 minutes we move onto a darkly comic tale of a cross-dresser who takes his own life (or does he?) - "Tracy Jacks" is more of an opener, a scene-setter for what follows, and it's tone is not a million miles from the character-based songs of Ray Davies or Paul Weller.

From that moment on, the album continues to deliver and develops the Britishness of 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'.  Blur hit their stride with every track (yes, even "Trouble In The Message Centre") being a complete whole - a case of "all killer, no filler".  There is a danger of over-exposure and over-familiarity and this is certainly true of the title track, but the album remains a truly wonderous slab of vinyl (or shiny metal, depending on your choice of format).

4 singles were culled from the album ("Girls & Boys", "Parklife", "End Of The Century" and "To The End") and all show different facets of Blur's developing songcraft.
Alongside these (fairly) well known tracks nestles:
 - all-out punky thrash ("Bank Holiday", "Jubilee")
 - a Syd Barrett knock-off ("Far Out" - Alex James' sole songwriting contribution to the album)
 - a rumination of separation and/or a life in a rut ("Badhead")
I'm wondering (although this cannot be confirmed) if this song has anything to do with Damon Albarn and Justine Frischmann's relationship? It could certainly be read that way
 - an almost 80s Funk throwback - musically if not lyrically ("London Loves")
 - a throwaway (not disposable) Franco-German oompah accordian-based instrumental ("Debt Collector")
 - and a mad piece of Music Hall which almost veers into The Beatles "Eight Days A Week" ("Lot 105")

And if it wasn't for "Lot 105" then surely "This Is A Low" would be vying for inclusion in a list of "Best Album Closing Tracks"
If I'm honest, this is another track which didn't endear itself immediately, and it took a few listens to understand the ambition it was showing compared to the general good feeling, celebratory nature of the album.  Performed Live is the moment I "got it" - it has that feeling of Epic-ness about it, and gives a definite pointer to the development and growth the band would go through on subsequent albums.
If this album is Bripop personified, "This Is  A Low" is the point Blur show they want more, and are no longer content to plough the formulaic furrows.

Tracy Jacks

This Is A Low


  1. Great post for a great album.

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with this album, and Blur in general. Loved it at the time, but after a while, Damon's mockney-geezer act began to grate. This Is A Low and End of the Century are classics though.

  3. 25 years since Britpop bloomed. God I feel old