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** Fade In-Out **
The Britpop era, which might be considered the five years from the release of Suede's self-titled effort in 1992 to the appearance of Oasis's overblown Be Here Now in 1997, was perhaps my personal favourite. (I'm not old enough to have been around in the Sixties, alas and alack.) Intended partly as a reaction against the grungy likes of Nirvana, the movement - if such a grand word can be used - was characterised by guitar-based melodies and a strong sense of British quirkiness. (And, in its latter days, Tony Blair's "Cool Britannia", but let us pass over that in silence.)
Apart from its music, the album is best remembered today for its dramatic and instantly recognisable cover, which depicts two racing greyhounds at full pelt. This image is very much a nod to the urban, working-class society which Parklife reflects, and as such it works very well. Its bold and relatively simple design means that it catches the eye even on the sort of tiny thumbnail picture you get on streaming music services these days, and by any measure it must be considered a classic of record cover artwork.
** Supersonic **
It may not matter quite so much in these days of pick'n'mix music, but back in the 1990s, despite the existence of shuffle modes on most CD players, a pop album was still largely designed so as to make it a satisfying experience to listen to each track in order. A few bands (Pink Floyd come to mind) have tried at various times to insist that the people who pay their bills shouldn't be allowed to buy only certain tracks and choose to listen to their music in the order they want to, but in reality that battle is long since lost. However, in 1994 this was far from the case and so a strong first number was of immense importance.
Luckily, Parklife's opener is a stormer. "Girls and Boys" was Blur's most succesful single to date, reaching number five, and quite right too. It's in some ways a surprise that I like this song so much, given that it concerns what has grown to become known as chav culture, clubbing binge drinking and all. However, that would be much too simplistic a charge to bring against a song which managed to bring (indirectly, anyway) questions of gender identity to a mass audience and do so in one of the catchiest ways you could ever imagine. "Trouble in the Message Centre" is also a wonderful slice of electronic-tinged darkness, sadly hardly ever played on the radio nowadays.
Other standout tracks include "Magic America", which may have dated a little nowadays (the notion of "channel 44" no longer seems odd on this side of the Atlantic) but has one of the most insistent beats of any song here. After all, who wouldn't want to go "where the air is sugar free"? I also really like the slightly retro-sounding guitars of "Bad Head" (amusingly misnamed in at least one review as "Bedhead"!) and - perhaps to my own surprise - the very capital-centric "London Loves", which includes some fine lines ("The mystery of a speeding car ... the misery of a speeding heart") as well as a substantial snatch of a radio traffic report, and might have done pretty well as a single.
The best song on the album, however, and one of my favourites from the entire Blur oeuvre, is "This is a Low" - which despite not being released as a single (perhaps because of its length - more than five minutes) was deservedly included on The Best Of... compilation in 2000. This is a great, swirling paean to that most British of institutions, the radio shipping forecast - and like much of the very best Britpop, it really wouldn't work in any other voice but a British (specifically, English) one. It was reportedly refused airplay in some quarters because of the line "The Queen - she's gone round the bend / Jumped off Land's End". Their loss.
** Some Might Say **
Observant readers may have cottoned on to the fact that I haven't yet mentioned Parklife's title track. There's a simple reason for that: I don't like it all that much. It seems to me somewhat overrated, in rather a similar way to how "Wonderwall" is by so many Oasis fans. Unlike much of the album, "Parklife" itself falls on just the wrong side of the divide between cheerful urban self-parody and the "East End geezer" feel I've always found extremely irritating. Phil Daniels' guest appearance is amusing, but not enough so. That said, I suspect I'd have found "Parklife" underwhelming in a Manchester accent too...
The rather forgettable "Tracey Jacks" also falls into this category; the following "End of a Century" has considerable musical similarities but seems that much more accomplished and rounded, with a great brass solo that (intentionally or otherwise) has obvious Beatles parallels. "To The End", meanwhile, reminds me a good deal of Roger Moore-era James Bond, though perhaps not done with quite as much verve. The Who show a little influence on the Viz-style "Jubilee", which is in this section not because it's indifferent but because I flip between loving and hating it! ("Billy Banker", for heaven's sake?)
** Slide Away **
Parklife doesn't contain too much that I actively dislike, but there are one or two tracks that could have been dropped without exciting too much protest from me. Chief among these is "Far Out", an utterly bizarre astronomy-themed number. All I can really say in this song's favour is that it's very short - a mere 1'41". Not the shortest, though: that's the 1'05" final track, "Lot 106", which simply confuses the heck out of me with its weird take on the Beatles' "Eight Days a Week", like a music-hall act who've been passed the wrong bottles in the dressing room. Neither of the aforementioned tunes do a great deal to hold attention.
** Be Here Now **
Amazon currently sell this album for £3.49 including postage. I had to double-check the price when I first saw that figure - but yes, it is indeed the case. That makes it one of the most outstanding Britpop bargains you can purchase, and the only reason I can think of for not buying it is that you already own it. Should you prefer electronic delivery, the MP3 version costs 89p a track or £2.99 for the lot. For once, the physical CD seems the better-value option. As far as a verdict goes, this isn't my favourite Britpop album - that honour goes to (What's the Story) Morning Glory? by (whisper it) Oasis - but it's still a very good one with some of the best songs Britpop ever spawned. Four (and a half) stars overall, but five in value-for-money terms.
I personally find it impossible to think about the band Blur without a smile uncontrollably making its way onto my face. Their effervescent and sometimes downright silly charm made them masters during the Britpop era where they turned out many anthemic sing-a-long tunes full of fun and energy. Quite frankly they were bonkers but in a good way!
For those that may have missed the Blur bandwagon they are a London quartet that first formed in 1988 with the alternative name Seymour. The line-up has remained unchanged during all their active years which originally ended in 2003 and began again when they reformed in 2009 and consists of Damon Albarn (singer), Graham Coxon (guitarist), Alex James (bassist) and Dave Rowntree (drummer).
Most famously they were one of two bands involved in what was dubbed by the media as "The Battle of Britpop". Rivalry began to grow between the two bands and the ultimate war began when they were set to release their singles on the same day - Blur with "Country House" and Oasis with "Roll With It". The media whipped up a frenzy storm and the two bands went to chart in at No. 1 and No.2 with Blur being the eventual winners!
Anyway, I always think of Blur's most defining album as being Parklife (1994) which was chocked full of great summery tunes that you just had to bop along to and is an album that brings back nostalgic feelings of the mid 90s when all I had to care about was getting my homework in on time and where life was free and easy. Not like now where life revolves around fulltime work and paying the bills. Shudder.
1. Girls & Boys
This is the first of many anthemic songs on the album and the first to be release entering the charts at No. 5. With a ridiculously catchy synthesised tune and infectious, albeit slightly repetitive chorus it is quite impossible not to find yourself singing along to it. The lyrics are a bit random and nonsensical with an overwhelming sense of confusion (especially gender confusion) but this matters not a jot as it is a seriously fun song and pop at its best. The cockney and casual style to Albarn's vocals really keeps the song light-hearted and overall it is a fantastic song to chill to.
2. Tracy Jacks
In a similar style to Girls & Boys, Blur have managed to create another outrageously catchy song but whilst slightly veering away from the more synthesised sound of Girls & Boys an introducing a rockier guitar based sound. This song is bit of a mad one, again sung in the slightly mocking cockney tones of Albarn which gives a rather tongue-in-cheek feel to it all. This song tells a story about Tracy Jacks, a man clearly discontent with his dreary life in a slyly amusing fashion:
"And then it happened on a Tuesday morning
Tracy Jacks bulldozed down the house he lived in
Saying it's just so overrated"
Once again, we have another song with lots of catchy parts to just sing along to which will really put you in a good mood.
3. End of a Century
Showing their versatility and that they are not a one trick pony, Blur throw out a slightly more solemn offering with "End of a Century" which was their fourth single to be released reaching No. 19. Albarn uses softer tones here which works really well with the slower, more melancholy tune to create a surprisingly moving song. This song seems to be again about the mundanity of life from a different perspective to that of "Tracy Jacks", but takes a more serious approach:
"And we all say don't want to be alone
We wear the same clothes because we feel the same
And kiss with dry lips when we say goodnight
End of the century oh it's nothing special"
An unexpected but welcome change in the direction of the album if somewhat short-lived as up next is...
Parklife - quintessentially Blur - was the third single to be released reaching No. 10. Another feel good anthemic song which is a cracking summer tune and once again will get people up and singing away:
"All the people, so many people
And they all go hand in hand
Hand in hand through their parklife"
Guest starring Phil Daniels (Kevin Wicks from Eastenders), who seems to be narrating a social commentary on elements of day to day life which is coined as "Parklife", this song is upbeat and again completely insane. The lyrics are a bit abstract in places and perhaps open to interpretation but always with a great comedic undertone to them which again gives "Parklife" the fun factor. This song stands the test of time and is still great to list to 15+ years later!
5. Bank Holiday
A short but sweet (perhaps not the right adjective to use here) song at only 1min 42secs is thrown in next which once again highlighting Blur's versatility. This song takes on a startlingly heavy and punk like quality and will have you rocking rather than bopping to it. Extremely fast paced and frenetic (with obvious similarities to their future song "Song 2") this is an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable song. Albarn's cockney style works perfectly in this song alongside the heavy guitar sound and once again the band seem geared to making social observations about the boringness of life, this time with a tiny reprieve in the form of Bank Holidays where everyone gets a chance to stop and let their hair down. But never fear, the band maintain their amusing lyrics:
"The kids are eating snickers because they're so delicious
Then there's sticky fingers and mother loses her knickers"
Another crazy song but I love it!
Returning to the more morose style of "End of a Century", Blur keep the album balanced and away from falling into the monotony trap of just producing one upbeat pop track after another by really adding depth to the album. This song again has a slower guitar rhythm to it and Albarn once again adjusts his vocal style to lessen the cockney side of it and add a touch of emotion to it. This song is a touch more serious than the others so far on the album as the humorous edge has seemingly gone on hiatus to be replaced by another commentary on the drudgery of life. There is an obvious theme emerging here!
"So far I've not really stayed in touch
Well, you knew as much; it's no surprise that today
I get up around two from a lack of anything to do"
7. The Debt Collector
There's not much really to say about this song - it is simply a random instrumental song involving an odd concoction of more classical instruments which ends up sounding suspiciously like circus music. A bit odd but nevertheless fun to listen to as a little interlude.
8. Far Out
Keeping in with the odd theme, Albarn gets a break and Alex James gives this whole singing lark a bash. This song was also the only song off this album to be written by Alex James and his style is exceedingly different to that of Albarn's by taking on a more ethereal and otherworldly quality. Another very short song at only 1min 41secs this song seems to be a brief stroll through the solar system and beyond for no obvious reason other than because he felt like it. Not particularly memorable but clearly just a bit of fun.
9. To the End
After a couple of weird interludes, Blur put themselves back on the right path with another gentle and emotional song. This was the second track to be released and only made it to no. 16. Albarn shows that he is actually a very good singer on this track with great emotional depth to what is quite a sad song about the breaking down of a relationship. Blur take a very orchestral approach to this song, even more so than their other more serious songs on this album, and create a sweet and enchanting sound with a very memorable chorus that swells with feeling. There's also a little bit of French (the language of love) thrown in to make it a bit more interesting:
"What happened to us? (Jusqu'a la fin)
Soon it will be gone forever (En plein soleil)
Infatuated only with ourselves (Jusqu'a la fin)
And neither of us can think straight anymore. (En plein amour)"
10. London Loves
With a return to a more upbeat and synthesised sound comes "London Loves", which is probably my favourite tune off this album. With great variation from the synthpop sound to smooth, rocky guitars, and the fabulous range of Albarn's vocals venturing into the realms of falsetto the song is seriously catchy. With what appears to be another look at society, this time through the hectic life of London, this is not quite such an amusing song as the earlier tunes, but actually feels like it has more meat to it.
The way people just fall apart
The way you just don't stand a chance"
It maybe not quite as anthemic as Parklife or Girls & Boys but it is one of the more memorable tracks on the album.
11. Trouble in the Message Centre
This track continues the rockier them and for the first time has a slightly angry sound to it. Once again Blur have hit upon a very catchy, slightly synthesised sound and even throw in a few laas that were a big element of classic Britpop. There is a mixture throughout this song, particularly through Albarn's vocals as he assumes the role of the message centre in an authoritarian way contrasting with the velvety chorus which makes the song quite intriguing. I feel that there is a hidden meaning to the song, that perhaps it is some kind of analogy, but I can't really discern an obvious meaning from it, other than perhaps one of job dissatisfaction, again fitting in with the theme running throughout the album.
"No calls today they'll just have to wait dear
I call and I collect
So just strike him softly away from the body"
12. Clover Over Dover
This is another wonderfully memorable track off the album. It seems like a very depressive song with an obvious topic surrounding suicide by jumping over the white cliffs of Dover but I also get an oddly uplifting sense and I can't quite put my finger on the reason for such conflicting feelings. The tune is excellent and whilst the lyrics are quite sad the music has quite an upbeat feel to it and once again Albarn exudes an emotional quality to his voice which knits the song together. It's almost like there is a sense of relief now that the end is nigh which filters throughout the song:
"And now the bluebirds are over (I'm floating away)
Over the white cliffs of Dover (spent twenty years upon the sea)
And when you push me over (and when I come back)
Don't bury me, I'm not worth anything (I found that you took care to me)"
A really enjoyable song with a lot of hidden depth in my opinion.
13. Magic America
After all the intensity of "Clover Over Dover" we are returned to the playful, jovial side of Blur with a slightly mocking view of America through the experiences of a chap named Bill Barratt. It could also be that Blur are making a dig at the UK by suggesting that America seems like such a mystical place where life is bigger and better. Back to being upbeat and full of energy, this song again has anthemic qualities that will have you singing along in no time, especially with the seemingly essential string of lahs.
"Bill Barratt has a simple dream
He calls it his plan B
Buildings in the sky and the air is sugar-free
And everyone is very friendly"
Jubilee gives us a second bite of the punk apple. It's a lot less frenetic than "Bank Holiday" but still with fast paced guitars and plenty of fizz. Albarn's strong cockney vocals come to the forefront to give this song the extra attitude so often associated with such a punk style. This time Blur are telling us the story of Jubilee and how he encompasses all the characteristics of today's stereotypical disaffected youths. It is another amusing, fun and catchy song.
"Jubilee slouches in the settee
He's losing all will to move
He gone divvy
Too much telly
He watching 24 hours of rubbish"
Blur's social critique continues!
15. This Is a Low
This is a beautiful song to start closing the album out with. Blur create a gorgeous melody and this is probably the most genuine and poignant song on the album which proves that they are so much more than just having a bit of silly fun and there is pure quality to their music. Albarn is on top form vocally again gushing with understated emotion. Definitely my favourite of the slower, more serious songs, it just captivates you as you let the sound and emotions flow over you.
"This is a low
But it won't hurt you
When you are alone it will be there with you
Finding ways to stay solo"
16. Lot 105
A very strange song to close the album out with, Lot 105 at 1min 17secs is the shortest and easily the weirdest on the album. It is very similar to "The Debt Collector" with an odd style similar to circus music turning almost punk like at the end before hitting us with inexplicable lyrics:
"La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la - ha ha
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la - ha ha
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
Eighteen times a week, love
Ha ha ha ha ha!"
It's almost like they were trying to close the album with a bang, but the album wouldn't have been the poorer without it!
Parklife was an album that I had left on my shelf for well over a decade and had completely forgotten how amazing it was. When I think of it it reminds me of happy days back from the mid 90s, dancing and singing along to their infectious tunes that were pure Britpop, and I'm sure it will have the same effect on a lot of people! But I had also forgotten that they were so much more than a bit of silly fun, and that there was real diversity and quality to their songs which for me makes them still relevant today.
Sure, they had a lot of silliness and some random and amusing lyrics, but they could also be thoughtful and made some pretty deep songs. So much of their humour came from their observations of day to day life and their ability to turn it into a tongue-in-cheek social commentary which I really loved about the album as you could relate to so much of what was being said.
There were a few moments of experimentation which may have produced some unnecessary filler tracks but there are so many brilliant tunes on here that it makes it a must have album for anyone that loves light-hearted and chilled alternative rock. The album can be downloaded from Amazon for £2.99 which is an absolute bargain for 16 tracks. Go on, it'll brighten up your day!
Parklife is one of the best albums of the nineties in any country, it is a concept album by Blur, one of my favourite bands.
Parklife is the story of life in Britain, obviously it is a nuanced, stylised Britain but it is nonetheless a Britain which we can all recognise.
The album is one of the most popular in Blur's back catalogue, when I went to their gig in Hyde Park last summer, some of the songs still sounded as fresh, vibrant and relevant now as they did upon first release.
This was Blur's first real breakthrough album and highlighted the band as cheeky Essex chappies, when in reality, they are a band of incredibly intelligent uni graduates who created a concept album based on parts of their life and experiences.
Some of the songs on the album were highjacked by the people the songs were actually mocking and became anthemic in their popularity.
Although this album isn't as critically acclaimed as 'Modern Life is Rubbish' it is a still a damned good album for me and it means a lot because it showed me a new side of life and introduced me to concept albums by Blur influences such as the Kinks.
The album is based around life in the Essex/London estuaries and each song tells a seperate story, obviously the most well known are the Phil Daniels Fronted, Parklife which is a jaunty cockney knees up of a song with a memorable chorus and a great tune.
Girls and Boys was highjacked as a holiday anthem by lagered-up lads and laddettes when the song actually takes the mickey out of such people and their 'holiday experience' spending two weeks doing what they would at home but with the sunshine, the song is a fantastic one and is still well loved today but unfortunately it never really got the full acclaim it deserved due to its misrepresentation.
Also on the album is the brilliant Tracy Jacks which always goes down a storm at Blur gigs with its memorable chorus. To the End is an utterly beautiful song which reminds us of Sixties ballads with a cold edge and a video reminiscent of a Clockwork Orange with the chorus sung by Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab
This is a low and End of the Century are also beautiful songs, although I understand 'This is a Low' is based on the shipping forecast from a tea Towel owned by Damon Albarn. The album was based partially on London Fields by Martin Amis and has sly yet affectionate digs at Middle England and the way we are.
It was said that Blur would never break America with this colloquial sound, yet Song 2 and the Gorrilaz tend to argue against this.
This is a fantastic album that really does stand up to the test of time, listen to 'To the End', 'Parklife' or 'Girls and Boys' now and they still sound relevant and musically challenging today.
Girls & Boys
End of a Century
The Debt Collector
To the End
Trouble in the Message Centre
Clover Over Dover
This Is a Low
The album is available for download or you can buy it from Amazon for £3.49, you can also buy it on Marketplace for much less. Honestly this is a 5 out of 5 album in my eyes and I recommend you buy it if you don't currently own it.
16 years on from its release it's difficult in these times to imagine anybody finding anything to love about this country. Petrol is ludicrously expensive, if its not snowing its raining enough to flood half the nation, work is hard to come by, and the dawn of terrorism has made us all suspicious of our own culture. The 16 songs of Parklife, however, are glowing tributes to the places and characters of England, and delivered with such love and naievity that you can't help but smile.
Whether it's the joys of havin'it large on 18-30 holidays (Girls and Boys), odes to love (To the End), and gentle cultural mocking (the title track), everything here is delivered with such warmth that you practically bask in its glow. Tracy Jacks is the highlight, a delirious tale of one mans quest to break from the norm told with touching affection. Jubilee is another memorable moment, a comedic tale of bedroom adolescence surely reminiscent of many of our own younger lives. Elsewhere there are flirtations with Barrett like eccentricity (Far Out) and instrumental passages presumably designed as breathers (The Debt Collector, Lot 105).
What this album manages to convey is a sense of hope against a landscape of national identity crisis, a half full glass in a time of change and an opportunity to revel in fun and humour rather than get bogged down in the negativity that the grunge scene of the US was offering. Through no fault of their own Blur managed to spark off the Britpop era and this album is unfairly lumped in with the retro aping identity of that movement. Parklife is best taken at face value, forget what ensued (the ridiculous Oasis wars, the reintroduction of mod fashion) and you'll be in for a musical treat.
Parklife was the 3rd album by the English alternate rock band Blur who consisted of Damon Albarn on lead & backing vocals, keyboards, machine strings, harpsicord on "Clover Over Dover", melodica, vibraphone & recorder, Graham Coxon on backing vocals, guitar, clarinet, saxophone & percussion, Alex James on vocals on "Far Out", bass guitar & noise and Dave Rowntree on drums & percussion. The album was released on 25 April 1994 on Food Records.
The band formed in 1988 when they met at Goldsmiths College in London & were originally called Seymour but their record company didn't like the name so drew up a list of potentials and Blur was eventually chosen by the band. It seems fortunate that this album even exists as after it was recorded the owner of the Food label sold up to EMI who fortunately decided to retain Foods artists as well as honouring their releases.
When released the album went straight to #1 and was on the UK album charts for 90 weeks earning quadruple Platinum status which is in excess of 1.2 million units. All lyrics written by Damon Albarn unless stated otherwise.
So whats on Parklife then?
1. "Girls & Boys" - 4:50
This was the 1st single off the album & was released on 7 March 1994, its best recorded chart position was #5 in the UK Singles Charts. The cover of the single was packaged to look like a packet of condoms. The song itself is a tirade against Holiday romances & random sexual encounters with strangers, this is considered their 1st real hit (how quickly "There's No Other Way" & "She's So High" are forgotten, eh?) when its really their 1st well known hit. Its got a good guitar lick but its a bit too repetative to be honest.
2. "Tracy Jacks" - 4:20
Is it just me or is the guitar riff at the start of this stolen from "Venus" by Bananarama? For those of you who are still confused about the gender of Tracy Jacks it definately IS a guy as he is referred to as "he" many times in the lyrics which I like very much. The bit about taking his clothes off & worrying about his age made me think of Reggie Perrin especially as he is so unhappy about his life.
The song feels a lot like "My Sharona" by the Knack as well, its a cracking rocky little number with great imagery in the lyrics too. Gotta love that great guitar riff and the orchestral playout is very cool too.
3. "End of a Century" - 2:46
This was the 4th single released off the album on 7 November 1994, its only recorded chart position was #19 on the UK Singles Chart. I really like the chords, it feels like quite a litany of the things that are happening in your life at that time.
Damon Albarn said it was written as he felt too many people were looking forward to the Millenium instead of thinking about the present hence the lyric "End of the century, its nothing special" which I was in total agreement with.
4. "Parklife" - 3:05
This was the 3rd single released off the album on 22 August 1994, its best recorded chart position was #10 in the UK Singles Chart. The video and song both feature actor Phil Daniels doing some of the lyrics & was their 1st single to appear on the joint Food/EMI label after Food sold the label. The spoken word delivery is a very unusual style that is very different to Albarns performance of the chorus.
5. "Bank Holiday" - 1:42
Its quite a Punk rocky style song, but incredibly short. It draws its inspiration from bands like The Damned or X-Ray Spex as Punk songs of the 70's were well known for being very short. Its very different from everything else on the album thats for sure. I like it.
6. "Badhead" - 3:25
A rather soulful laid back brass intro that slows down into a lovely clear guitar riff reminscent of "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks, the lyrics arent very meaningful but seem to tell a little story in bits and pieces. I spend too much time enjoying the tune which is as mellow as heck, it really makes me think of the early Madchester "baggy" style but in a very laid back lo-fi ambient way. Probably one of the best tracks on the album.
7. "The Debt Collector" - 2:10
A rather cool instrumental in the style of a waltz with great brass. Its almost like a piece of music written for a brass band to play in the park or a wurlitzer to play in the cinema during intermission. The clarinet/sax on this is brilliant as well, it reminds me of Branford Marselis' work on "Dream Of The Blue Turtles" by Sting. A hidden gem, its truly excellent.
8. "Far Out" - 1:41
That dischordant guitar & synth at the start of this is like David Bowies "Star Man" or "Space Oddity", the list of constellations is rather cool. Its yet another weird but overlooked track on the album with a very odd but cool playout. One of the few tracks written by Alex James who also sings it.
9. "To the End" - 4:05
I adore the xylophone & woodwind intro to this, it was the 2nd single released off the album on 30 May 1994. Its only recorded chart position was #16 in the UK Singles Charts, it was a joint Food/Parlophone release and was their final single on that joint label before Food was sold to EMI.
The rather sexy female voice singing the French bits is Laetitia Sadier from the band Stereolab. She sounds just like Jane Birkin on "Je t'aime...moi non plus" though doesnt she?
10. "London Loves" - 4:15
Apart from the slightly synthy intro that reminds me of "China Girl" by David Bowie this has quite an 80's New Romantic feel about it in the tune & instruments used. Things like the drum hits that sound like "Da da da" by Trio, it also sounds a lot like stuff by XTC and Squeeze as well. I wouldnt be surprised if Albarn had been quite influenced by Squeeze in his formative years.
11. "Trouble in the Message Centre" - 4:09
Oh blimey, yet another 80s inspired tune. If this wasn't inspired by Tubeway Army I'd be very surprised indeed although it also reminds me of "This Corrosion" by The Sisters of Mercy as well.
Its a great rock tune with electronic & Gothic influences & another track that frequently gets overlooked on the album. For some reason I am also now thinking of "Dirk Wears White Socks" by Adam & The Ants, its that style too.
12. "Clover Over Dover" - 3:22
I like that rather odd harpsichord intro that gels with the guitar very well indeed. The vocal is sung in rather a bizarre key compared to the actual main tune, Albarn seems to be struggling to reach the rather high key he set for himself.
The Santana guitar style middle 8 is probably the best thing about this track, if it was rewritten today I'm sure Damon would change the key for the vocals as they just dont fit the song at all. Those lyrics are really big on suicide by jumping off the cliffs too.
13. "Magic America" - 3:38
I am sure this is a tribute to The Beatles as it feels very much like a lot of their later stuff after Sgt Pepper, think about tunes like "Magical Mystery Tour" or even Pink Floyds "Arnold Layne". A rather fun song about a man who wants to visit America as its a wonderful place in his imagination.
14. "Jubilee" - 2:47
Very much like early Cockney Rebel (circa "Mr Soft") in its delivery, quite a 70's Glam style tune just before the cusp of Punk. It also feels like bits of "Virginia Plain" by Roxy Music too, its quite a big late Glam influence here then although bits of that middle 8 sound like "Pretty Vacant" by The Sex Pistols.
The lyrics give away some of the Punk influence by stating that Jubilee "isnt keen on being liked, being like anyone else", very Punk indeed.
15. "This Is a Low" - 5:07
Possibly the best song on the whole album, a strange little number inspired by a handcherchief that contained a map of the shipping areas around the UK. The tune is brilliant and it is a massive fan favourite as well as being very well liked by all the band too.
Its a lovely ambient track with acoustic guitar complementing Albarns vocals over muted drums that work perfectly. I dont think there is any way you could improve this song (although I'd love to hear a woman sing it, I think All About Eve & Julianne Regan are one of the few bands & artists that could do it justice). Its best line? "The Queen, she's gone round the bend, jumped off Lands End". Sublimely great.
16. "Lot 105" - 1:17
Another little odd gem on the album, a hammond organ playing bits of "8 Days A Week" by The Beatles (come on Blur did you not think we'd spot it?), the way it devolves into a Punk "Oi" style delivery is rather fun too.
Summing up:- So is Parklife any good? Damn stupid question, of course it is! Lots of odd quirky little short tracks, 4 singles, 90 weeks on the album chart and it went quadruple Platinum for crying out loud. If you didn't own this in the 90's it was a bit difficult to call yourself British, not supporting one of the best bands about at the time.
Today its well worth anyones money and has a good variety of different song styles that are going to appeal to most tastes, if you can't find something you like on Parklife then your just too fussy for your own good. Buy it and love it!
(this review also appears on Ciao!)
~~A little history about the band~~
Daman Albarn (singer/frontman) met Graham Coxon (guitar) at school, headed for London and after joining theatre school and university meets Alex James (bass) and Dave Rowntree (percussion) - they form 'Seymour' who were later to be called Blur.
Taking influence from many directions such as a bohemian upbringing, Two Tone, eighties synthpop, and punk to name but a few, Blur became one of the main names of Britpop in the 90s.
~~Track 1 - Girls & Boys~~
With quite a synth sound, this song is an observation of the herds of club 18-30 holiday makers going to the mediterranean to have promiscuous sex and drink lots of alcohol. It turned into an instant anthem amongst students and is still a floor-filler today. Its raw yet kitsch sound gets me pogoing every time!
~~Track 2 - Tracy Jacks~~
In the style of the Kinks, this song is about a fictional stereotype of a man who works for the civil service and finally goes crazy. The lyrics are a darkly humourous, clever composition that leaves you putting it on repeat so as to ensure you did not miss anything. Graham's unique wa-wa guitar just adds to the catchiness of it.
~~Track 3 - End of a Century~~
This dreamy little number seems to be a particular favourite amongst hardened Blur fans - you watch any video of them playing live and this one is guaranteed to get the audience joining in. It is about urban working class British life and how it can be a drag but how it isn't really that bad either. The quirky brass solo adds a hint of Burt Bacharach style to it, giving it a retro feel.
~~Track 4 - Parklife~~
Another song about every day life but more upbeat, taking a more positive slant - seeing the poetry and beauty in the routine of the common man - the lyrics could be compared to 'Autumn Almanac' by The Kinks. Narrated by Phil Daniels (ex Eastenders and Quadrophenia) actor just perfects the feel of this song and carrie you straight to the East End of London. This, alongside 'Country House' is really what Blur are famous for. Cool Brittania at its best.
~~Track 5 - Bank Holiday~~
Lasting only 1:42, this little ditty is more of a filler than anything else but still worth mentioning as Parklife would not be the album it is without these little intermissions. Very fast headbanging punk shouting about barbeques, beer, and crawling back to work by the Monday hungover... say no more!
~~Track 6 - Badhead~~
This melancholy, fragile song brings a welcome relief from the louder tracks. My interpretation is that of someone with depression - lost their job, sleeping all the time, no relationship. The wind instruments and spangly guitar are well chosen.
~~Track 7 - The Debt Collector~~
An instrumental 3/4 time tune with hammond, and various wind sounds just like something from a Victorian fairground. This track has been used endless times on TV programs.
~~Track 8 - Far Out~~
Written by Alex James and performed by him, this little intermission is a whistful piece of poetry about the solar system, in the style of The Clangers or old black and white sci-fi films, ideal for ending Side 1 (yes, cassettes were still around then). A rare insight into the artistic qualities of Alex... and they're not bad.
~~Track 9 - To The End~~
A memorable iconic 60s style Dionne Warwick-esque full-on ballad but with the lyrics you would expect from the boy next door. Throughout the song, your ears are also blessed with that trademark Victorian circus/fairground sound with the hammond that Damon does so well. Leaves you with butterflies.
~~Track 10 - London Loves~~
Not their best but still enjoyable enough to not skip the track. A less dramatic slightly synth sounding tune with the lyrics describing someone who works for the Mob.
~~Track 11 - Trouble in the Message Centre~~
I interpreted this as describing someone working in an office job - showing how inhuman the whole business is. Very punk sounding - a noughties band that could be described as having a similar sound would be the Kaiser Chiefs.
~~Track 12 - Clover Over Dover~~
Sparkly, soft guitar and Damon's high-pitched moans make this a pleasure to the ears; the lyrics however, portray an almost suicidal person missing someone who has jilted them.
~~Track 13 - Magic America~~
A cheerful slightly sarcastic song about the stereotype of America - burgers, shopping malls etc... Again not their best track but certainly not one to skip.
~~Track 14 - Jubillee~~
An excellent song about someone who cannot be bothered to get a job or a haircut and watches television 24/7. This has that slightly faster punk sound that they do so well.
~~Track 15 - This is a Low~~
A genius composition that has stood the test of time. Dreamy maritime lyrics are almost as soothing as the shipping forecast itself as you are taken around the British Isles.
~~Track 16 - Lot 105~~
Another of those amazing slightly comical instrumentals, the first 50 seconds is the seaside sounding organ and a syncopated twotone style guitar - suddenly it speeds up with the whole band LA LA LAing. What more can I say? What a great finish to an absolutely brilliant album.
Brit Pop has arrived!!!! As ever I am going to give you my own opinion of the tracks. 1. Girls and Boys was the birth of Brit Pop, catchy chorus all about holidays away with your pals really. 2. Tracy Jacks - song about some fictional character, lyrics are very funny. 3. End of a Century is a nice lovey dovey song. 4. Parklife - really needs no explanation. 5. Bank Holiday - they only come 6 times a year apparently, breathe Damon! 6. Badhead - rather mellow sounding song. 7 Debt Collector - rather wacky instrumental, they came onto this at the MEN concert last June. 8. Far Out - yes Alex James sings, not to sure what hes on about. 9. London Loves - another song about the capital, I like the bit in the middle. 10. Trouble In The Message Centre - one of the albums hidden gems. 11. Clover Over Dover - one of those melodic tunes to chill out to. 12. Magic America - another of the songs about the bands American experiences. 13. Jubilee - Up tempo song especially like the part in the middle where they use one of those keyrings that were out in the 80's with the 4 coloured buttons that make the machine gun noises. 15 - This is a Low - They always seem to end their albums with a moody, depressing song. 16. Lot 106 - instrumental knees up type of track.
Parklife is probably Blur's best known album and was released to achieve them a peak of popularity, but perhaps not a peak in excellence...
Girls and Boys is our opener. Simple, catchy and annoying as hell after half a dozen listens. It is a cleverly crafted pop song, the call and response chorus is a stroke of genius which is perfect for singing along to in a car, in a club or in your bedroom. I can imagine Graham getting very upset about having to record this one though...
Next song to grab my attention is bad head. The brass loops and melodic guitars lines set a magical scene for a very English ballad about a very English life; it sounds ever so Kinks/Beatles. The guitar work is very nice and the broad use of instruments, from trombone to hammond organ, makes for interesting. It's a lovely melody but the sheer Britpopiness of it makes it feel a little dated.
This Is A Low provides the epic closer. It's an absolutely fantastically which the band painstakingly recorded to make sure every detail was perfect. Every single aspect of the song amazes me. The lyrics based around a shipping forescast, the low referenced being low pressure. The guitar work is astounding, the guitar solo is epic and rousing. Damon's vocals are surprisingly affective. And the very building feeling of the song throughout makes the song feel none to long clocking in at over 5 minutes. Surprisingly the song was not a single but remains to be one of the most popular of Blur's songs.
Parklife is, for me at least, a bit of a hit and miss affair. There's plenty of genre swapping through and though there are may sparks of brilliance a few songs feel a tad cringeworthy, from a contemporary perspective at least. Tracy Jacks makes me wince every time I hear it. But for the most part Parklife is a display of well crafted pop.
"Parklife" is Blur's third release, with the title track being one of their biggest hits. It includes another of the band's biggest hits "Girls and Boys", but i believe that the best moments of this album are found in the other tracks. This album includes my favourite Blur song of all time "This Is A Low", I was lucky enough to experience this song live a few weeks ago and it was incredible, such an emotional, overwhelming and anthemic song (well it is including in the Glastonbury Anthems DVD!). Other highlights for me include the story telling "Tracy Jacks", the HUGE "End of a Century", the sweet brassy "Badhead" and the romantic "To The End".
The only bad thing I would say about this album is it is slightly overblown, there is too much on it, and too much filler, but it includes some of my favourite Blur tracks so I would definately recommend it.
Parklife: A Jaded American Perspective As an American, Blur's presence on MTV and radio has been virtually nonexistent. Of course, there was the gay club anthem (Girls and Boys) and the post grunge rocker (Song 2), but nothing else really played here. Considering other English bands like Radiohead, Oasis and Bush (oh God!), I feel that this is rather ironic considering thet they're such an obviously skilled modern pop band. oops....this went to u-rate-it.com Parklife: A Jaded American Perspective As an American, Blur's presence on MTV and radio has been virtually nonexistent. Of course, there was the gay club anthem (Girls and Boys) and the post grunge rocker (Song 2), but nothing else really played here. Considering other English bands like Radiohead, Oasis and Bush (oh God!), I feel that this is rather ironic considering thet they're such an obviously skilled modern pop band.
At last, all the potential that Blur had shown on late night sessions with Steve Lamacq, Annie Nightingale and John Peel finally crystallised into something more solid and they pulled off what they had always promised to achieve, a solid, classic album with nary a weak link, literally dripping with hits and excellent high spots, demanding and cajoling and tugging alternatively their forelocks and your cuffs, imploring you to lend them a fiver for a cup of tea. Gone are the days when sixpence would have done. 1994-era Blur had the boys from Cheeky Charlie Land firmly ensconced in the dear seats and taking an almighty shot at becoming very big indeed. Before Parklife, Blur had always personified cult and good humour and a knees up sensibility without ever getting inside your head, but now they exploded into the consciousness with a quite extraordinary, uniquely entertaining, good time classic. Blur are: Damon Albarn (vocals, backing vocals, Hammond, Moog, Machine Strings, Harpsichord, Melodica, Vibraphone, Recorder, some programming) Dave Rowntree (drums, percussion, crowd noise, some programming) Alex James (bass guitar, crowd noise) Graham Coxon (backing vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, clarinet, saxophone, percussion) They were joined by Stephen Street (keyboards, sound effects and production on all but one of the tracks) and have contrived to create a truly wonderful piece of pop rock, which is as rooted in London as its origins in Fulham, Maison Rouge and St John's Wood suggest, recreating and revamping the ghost of Carnaby Street in the Swinging Sixties when British pop music reigned supreme. From opening chords to closing fade, Parklife is as splendid a work of Brit Pop as you are ever likely to experience, as light hearted, frothy and insubstantial as pop gets, while still hiding a grim and moody sensuality at its heart. Most of the attention was inevitably focused on the pretty boy good looks of
Damon Albarn, but this album is as much of a triumph for guitarist Graham Coxon as the happy go lucky frontman. There's plenty of stuff on here which will make you wonder why they bothered, but there's even more which helps you understand, and Parklife is a truly wonderful example of pop music at its archest. ************************************* Girls & Boys ************************************* Jolly Up your fairground, boys, the street urchins are back in town with their up tempo Oompah Oompah triumph, as Damon comes over all Club 18-30 - "Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do boys like they're girls who do girls like they're boys, always should be someone you really love." Eh? What the hell's the chap on about? Dunno, but it's certainly something to do with hiding the sausage with absolutely no shame. It's undoubtedly extremely addictive and thrilling whatever the man's on about and a massive pop beat. Brilliant guitar lines zipping everywhere from Graham Coxon with that splendidly distinctive guitar scrape all the way up from top to bottom. Party party and stick it where it really hurts. ************************************* Tracy Jacks ************************************* Brit Pop is where it's at as far as the Blur boys are concerned (at least as it was at this time way back in 1994 before they got all serious and moody), and Tracy Jacks is wonderful singalonga Brit Pop of the highest order, firmly rooted in the more ancient London sound of the Small Faces, the Move and the Kinks, all wonderful cutesy pie vocals, ooh-ooh harmonies all over the place and beefy strings flooding in at just the right moments while the band pounds away at your pop funny bone, with Damon doing his impression of David Bowie when he was good old Davey Jones and not yet in his sleazy locker/closet. There was a time when Blur could do absolutely no wro
ng and could churn out massive pop hits seemingly at will. This is one of the finest examples of that gorgeous muse. ************************************* End Of A Century ************************************* It's much more meaningful, but this song still reeks of instant pop power (rather than power pop) and evokes the ghost of Roy Wood at his thrilling peek (Move rather than Wizzard). The fallabout and saccharine smooth harmonies are still washing everywhere while Damon tackles his falsetto style. Underneath all that vocal splendour, however, Coxon leads the band in gleeful, blissful, classic 60's pop in a way that only they can really manage these days. ************************************* Parklife ************************************* If the first three set the pace, then this smash hit single featuring Damon's pal Phil Daniels on wide boy Cockney barrer boy rap sees them forcing their way out in front, dropping off all imitators and opponents in their wake. The chipper rhythm and pace and oh so singable chorus grip you by all your vital organs and demand your participation before that splendidly dickey middle eight and the knees bend yearning. Parklife, a memorable single, a splendid video, and a thoroughly jolly old time, still replete with that good time feel that they mastered so well. ************************************* Bank Holiday ************************************* Forget the jolly holiday for the moment, because now Damon and the boys have got their punk thrash heads on in a blistering race to the finish which leaves them all stumbling over themselves in a gorgeous rush of power punk thrashing and threshing. Blur are the perfect soundtrack to the old Mods v Rockers Bank Holiday battles of the 60's so it was bound to come to this in the end. ************************************* Badhead ************************************* Let's go for som
ething a little more delicate now, with the chiming guitar riff from Coxon and the gentle, almost sunny vocals from Damon. This is a blissful, laid back charmer, low key and muted, but demanding your attention as those irresistible 60's harmonies wash over you once again. Blur were/are truly a class act and will always be better when dropping down the pace and singing/playing/charming your pants off with their mop top boyfriend excellence. ************************************* The Debt Collector ************************************* Circuses and fairgrounds have always struck me as just that little bit sinister (viz John Lennon and Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite from Sergeant Pepper), but with Blur Mr Sinister rarely comes a-calling. Rather Mr Jolly remains firmly in control and takes the Blur Gang a little too closely to parody and self deprecation for my liking, with Damon perfecting his Good Old Days impression on the organ, more because he's got an organ and has to impress with you than there being much of any real worth here. Still, lovely bananas, Mr Albarn. ************************************* Far Out ************************************* This is far more, well, far out, than anything else here with Alex James taking the lead vocals on a whimsical piece of not very much at all. There's a lot of clever clever word play and gimmicks, but nothing to get up for. ************************************* To The End ************************************* After Far Out's whimsy comes the wistful and dreamy epic, To The End, with its romantic, waltzing big ballad sound and feel, gorgeously yearning and pleading for love and desire. This could easily have been Blur going for bland Eurovision Song land, but it's a classic example of string draped pop nonsense which actually succeeds, complete with rippling sound effects and drug induced stupor. ******************************
******* London Loves ************************************* This has a harder edge than the previous two lilting whimsies, and a definite resemblance to David Bowie's Fashion in tempo and clipped feel, definitely danceable and addictive with that wandering keyboard line and quirky guitar riffing. The vocals are seductive and blissful. ************************************* Trouble In The Message Centre ************************************* Raunchy distorted guitars and hammering rhythms kick us off and then we drop into an almost Kraftwerkesque parody, with robotic, treated call and response vocals. I haven't a clue what the hell they're on about but they certainly know what they're doing and I love them for it. ************************************* Clover Over Dover ************************************* Nice harpsichord and seagull opening (yes, it really does make sense), before giving way to a lovely, keyboard led romp through all the naffest rhymes you could ever dream of to go with the white cliffs of Dover. It's hippy dippy and trippy but still does enough to entice you into its clutches. ************************************* Magic America ************************************* London silliness rears its cute little head once again in the shape of Damon and his oh so English vocals and words. However, it's thoroughly engaging and listenable for all that and another marvellous chunk of quirky Brit Pop with its own individual touch and feel. There's a nice rock pop guitar rhythm surging through the whole thing which chink chunks its way into your heart despite the self consciously off the wall keyboard touches from Damon and self consciously bizarre vocals from the same Mr Albarn. ************************************* Jubilee ************************************* Jump pop of the most insubstantial kind which owes much of its sensibilities
to the older days of Blur with thoroughly catchy chorus and guitar riffing. The secret of Blur is well encapsulated here - it's all thoroughly formulaic pop music which we've heard a thousand times before from a thousand spotty adolescent no hopers, but somehow Damon and Graham manage to find something new and touching on all those old tricks, enough anyway to make you imagine for just one minute that they've invented the whole thing themselves and are just pocketing the royalties. ************************************* This Is A Low ************************************* Ooh, that glorious, warbling guitar riff, insinuating and winding its way, snakelike into your deepest, darkest memories, wrapping its sleazy fingers in and out of your hair, daring you to turn away. Your attention's taken just long enough for the epic, soaring vocals to uplift and entice you, sending you spinning. This is a pedestrian paced, insubstantial piece of pop music but THAT riff and THOSE vocals force you to reconsider them again and again, convincing you in the end that this is something special and epic, which of course it is. Five minutes sixteen seconds of majestic music which exemplifies all that is good about Blur. Now, let me just listen to that guitar one more time and I promise I'll go to bed. ************************************* Lot 105 ************************************* More of the candy floss and merry go round stuff, as Damon and his All Stars rush us breathlessly and emptily to another night at the Sunday Palladium. Twee in the extreme, but somehow just what you need to finish off this album and leave you singing your way home after the pub...
Very rarely does music have the power to become something more than just the sounds you can hear playing from a shiny disc. With Parklife in 1994, Blur joined an elite group of bands and artists which have truly managed to encapsulate the culture of the time in musical form. The concept album was by no means a new idea. Sergeant Pepper (although the concept was never really followed through past the first few tracks) paved the way for bands to become more creative in their presentation of music, allowing them to bring in other facets which weren't necessarily musical. The Parklife album was definitive proof that Music is not the bee all and end all when creating an album. Listen to Parklife and you can imagine yourself in the mid nineties. The descriptions in the lyrics 'Buildings in the sky and the air is sugar free' or 'we wear the same clothes, 'cos we feel the same' give a hint as to the background against which the songs were written, the limbo of the post gulf war, pre-Labour Britain and it is clear that we are asked to look at the world around us rather than simply take everything we here in the album as a gospel truth. The music is not necessarily ground breaking , but at the same time the range of genres which the band manage to assemble is nothing short of inspirational. Combine this of course with a blistering stage show, the videos, the t-shirts, the tv specials, and the magnificent sleeve designs by Stylorouge and you have nothing short of a post modernist product that Andy Warhol would have been proud of. Blur were not the first band to be held aloft during a zeitgeist, but as artists, they rode the tide and are still producing reflective work. If the 'here today, gone tommorrow' music industry has taught us one thing, it is that success is generally brief, but great artists always seem to battle through. Almost ten years later, and the sight of the greyhounds still puts a tingle down my spine.
In my opinion, Parklife by Blur was the first real 'Britpop' album. It's so, so English like all britpop was said to be- if you don't believe me, listen to the lyrics of 'This is a Low', 'Bank Holiday', 'End of a Century' and indeed the song 'Parklife'. The sounds used, especially the guitars, are all setting up the stage for that britpop explosion that happend around 1994-5. This was before Supergrass and any of the other Britpop act you may think of. Parklife takes influences from bands such as The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses and the Bluetones, but still it's so 'Blur' its unbelievable. Despite being the first of all these Britpop albums that i keep going on about, it was still an amazing album in its own right. It starts with 'Girls & Boys', a song which has now become an anthem, revolving around both the British going abroad in summer, and sexuality. The other anthem, 'Parklife', a tale of British lifestyle, starring Phil Daniels, was a huge commercial success, like Girls & Boys. It's no suprise, because these are the two songs on the album that were made for commercial success. Its not always good to have songs like this, but these two are still great tracks. There's a lot of variation on 'Parklife'. End of a Century, a very melodic acoustic guitar number with superb lyrics, contrasts songs such as 'Bank Holiday' and 'Jubilee', which are both very punky. There's also the contemporary numbers like London Loves, and Magic America. Each and every song on this album though is catchy and you'll find that if you have the album, you wont be skipping any tracks. Just about every song has a bit of feel-good good factor about it. The ones which don't, you will find yourself having a soft spot for, such songs being 'Bad Head' and 'To the End'. Its unusual for a band to make an album where every song is char
tworthy, but Blur just about pulled it off here. (ok, apart from maybe 'Lot 105' and 'Far Out', but these are novelty songs anyway) When you listen to this, you wonder why Blur decided to go all 'complicated' and 'intelligent'. Whether you like Blur's more recent stuff or not, you'll find yourself thinking this. Definetley hold a soft spot with me.
I remember the buzz. It was the summer of 1994. I’d just finished my GCSEs and I was on holiday in the south of France with a friend and her parents. We were staying on one of those huge campsites with house tents that had cookers. It was all terribly, terribly middle class. I think we were there three weeks in all but what I do know is that I had only three tapes with me (CDs were still a bit magical for me then) and anyway everybody knows vinyl is cooler anyway. Three tapes. Mysteriously one of them was Ingenue by kd lang which is something I am more proud of now than I was then. The second was a compilation of Beatles songs I had compiled myself from my father’s records the third was Parklife by Blur. It was by far the coolest album that summer, as far as I knew, and I listened to it on a regular and religious basis. As is inevitable on these campsites aged 16 all one wants is to seek out the funniest Brits and prettiest girls of any nationality. Swimming and exploring during the day and drinking and laughing the evenings, but not so much drinking, in case the grown ups found out. We were the coolest hepcats in the this campsite of maybe a thousand tents. Whilst the Germans, Belgians, French and Dutch were down at the squalid little bar at the edge of the campsite, the Brits had forged a space on a verge. It doesn’t sound much but most evenings we would gather, the brit pack, maybe 25 of us in all with a constant stream of comings and goings. Now, we had a sofa and some hastily organised planks as benches. They were a haphazard affair but it was where we hung out and everyone knew it. We had a small battery powered tape player and Parklife was the tape of choice. Boys and girls was my favourite song back them. It encapsulated all the holiday goodness we were enjoying at the time. The sort of grab a girl, or boy and have a good time idea of the holiday season. We would chant it with bemused continentals lookin
g on sipping sheepishly on their bier pression. Tracy jacks was the sad case we never wanted to be escaping from his drab and wretched life. Jubilee was the fella we secretly thought we might be back in Blighty. And then there are the songs that remind me of girls. Well, one girl in particular. Anna was her name. A posh girl from London. And she rather seemed to like me, her the girl from Putney High and me the comp boy heading for Eton. I recall listening to Badhead vowing always to stay in touch, unlike the song. And the bittersweet of To The End was never so sexy as when unsuccessfully trying to disguise a rampant erection in my swimming shorts as we snogged madly, lying in the vineyards. And we more than snogged as Graham Coxon’s mysterious ode to far away stars, Far Out, burbled from the battery powered tape player. And then in the sun by the pool songs like End of Century seemed a lifetime away. And the mind gets dirty as you get close to thirty? I mean what did that mean? I know now of course, but then it seemed almost like a dirge. But we sang along, nonetheless. My favourite song now is This is a Low. It reminds me so much of this country and how we love really odd things. What more beautiful song could be based around the shipping forecast? But back then my tastes were more obvious. But for that summer, Parklife was an anthem. The anthem. So deliciously British and proud and yet revelling, oddly, in squalor. It was a crowd pleaser with a deeper meaning. I still know all the words from Parklife. I can still deliver them with all the mockney verve I did all those summers ago. But they’ve never impressed anyone as much as they did Anna. And every time I listen to the album it all comes back. Anna, where are you now?
Let me introduce Blur. Damon Albarn is the lead vocalist, and typical good looking front man. Alex James is the bass player, who is regularly seen playing his bass guitar with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Dave Rowntree is the drummer, and the comedian in the group. A few years ago when I went to see Blur live, Dave cited Prince as one of his idols, and had DAVE written on his cheeks, copying the time Prince had SLAVE written on his cheeks in protest at his record company. The final member of the group is the studious Graeme Coxon, he is the guitarist. The band were originally called “Seymour” when they formed in 1989. Parklife was the third album from Blur, released in 1994, it was probably the album that gave them the status they have now. For a while, it looked like they were another band who would fall by the wayside trying to emulate “The Stone Roses”, but the cheeky chappies from Essex found just the right mix of pop to add to their indie music, and it made them stars, giving them a wider, more mainstream appeal. This album was Britpop at it’s finest, and as the rivalry with Oasis became more fierce, it only resulted in better, longer lasting music. “Parklife” went triple platinum within a year, and resulted in these 4 men being superstars. The album starts with an upbeat, bouncy song, which became an anthem for the 90’s. “Girls and Boys” was a holiday song, the kind that brings back fond memories of times in the sun. The song in my mind is about sexuality, maybe I am reading too much into the lyrics, but I think it is about not being closed minded about which partner you choose. My husband thinks it is about wild holidays (Club 18-30), but hey different interpretations are good. “Tracy Jacks” is an amusing tale of a gentleman gone mad. He is a civil servant who goes stir crazy and takes the running around his town in the nude. “End Of A Century̶
1; shows the slower, more relaxed side to Blur. The title track “Parklife” features the voice of actor Phil Daniels. Phil talks us through everyday observations in a work shy society, while Damon is the voice of the chorus. In my mind this is Blur’s trademark song, and it is one that will get you up and moving about, or at the very least tapping your feet while you sing along with a great fervour. “Bank Holiday” is a mad song that always gives me visions of people just running around with no direction. It is about how we all kick back and go mad when Bank Holidays come. Not me I’m afraid!!!! If you are a Blur fan, you will realise that they always include a manic song, think of “Song 2” and you know what I am getting at. “Badhead”, the next track, is a beautiful ballad. It is underrated by many Blur fans. The tempo changes again with “The Debt Collector”. It is a purely instrumental track, and always takes me back to childhood visits to the seaside and funfair. “Far Out” is Blur doing their own unique thing regardless of how odd it seems. Alex talks over some pretty mundane music, and I have read opinions where people like this song, however this is my let down track, and one I always skip past. The band redeem themselves quickly with “To The End”. Damon sings about a relationship which looked doomed, then the couple admit they have made it to the end. A sad song which showcases Damon’s vocal talents perfectly. Upbeat again with “London Loves”, but sadly this track disappears amongst the classic tracks that come before and after this. It is a dig at the media and our capital city. “Trouble In The Message Centre”. “Clover Over Dover” reminds me of my husband. When he picked me up on our first date, this is the song that he was playing in his car. I love the line “I want to roll in the clover, with
you over and over”. It brings pictures to mind of hot summer days in fields full of flowers, and clovers of course. “Magic America” is all about how the grass seems greener on the other side of the Atlantic. Damon sings about a man who thinks that everything and everybody in America is magic. I love the tempo of this song, I call it a “boppy” song. Moving on, “Jubilee” is a track similar to “Bank Holiday”. “This Is A Low” is a great ballad, and Damon’s vocals are soothing in a lullaby type way, but at times the song can seem as if it has a quiet orchestral accompaniment. “Lot 105” is a very short instrumental, which has been very lucky to get a track listing. There are many types of music on this album, and the diversity is the strength. Damon intended this album to be an insight into British life in the 1990’s, and with “Parklife” he has succeeded. The youth of the 90’s became proud to be Brits, and even championed some of our outdated traits and traditions, and this CD became part of the reason why. I still loves this album 7 years on, and I am sure I will be the same in another 7 years, and they still proudly reign as the kings of Britpop, even after that era has passed.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Girls And Boys
2 Tracy Jacks
3 End Of A Century
5 Bank Holiday
6 Debt Collector
7 Far Out
8 To The End
9 London Loves
10 Trouble In The Message Centre
11 Clover Over Dover
12 Magic America
14 This Is A Low