End Of the Century – Grade “A+”
Parklife – Grade “A+”
Here is not just the difference between Martin Amis and Blur but also the difference between literature and pop music. Both “London Fields” and “Parklife” are works about nihilism. They are about the inevitability of nothingness. Nothing changes, we just walk arm in arm to oblivion. End of a century? End of a planet? Nothing matters. But Amis is smeered in a cynicism where even his linguistic gymanistics can’t help him and Alburn is a Vaudevillian (with Quadrophenic Phil Daniels leading us “round and round and round” the park to nowhere) telling us to singalong because it’s pretty fucking bad but we’re all in it together. How can two songs so pitch black be so damn cheerful? Well, they both sound GREAT. “End Of The Century” is a beautiful song with a marvellous, tugging ache of a vocal by Alburn: its all arched “r’ and swirlling fffs: effervescent indeed. And in one song a married couple gores through it and on the next everybody else joins in. This is what Blur can do and Amis can’t.
Bank Holiday – An effervescent look at the habituality of the work enthic. Grade: “A-“
Badhead – We had a name for this kinda thing when I was knee high to a daisy: pop-ballad. And a goodie as well. grade: “A-“
The Debt Collector – This pleasant enough waltz goes round and round and round. The title is ominous and the sound slightly giddy. Grade: “B-“
Far Out – Literally. the opposite of shoegazing must be stargazing in this minor but interesting end to side one on the vinyl. Grade: “B+”
To The End – back when I was a thigh slapping twig of a thing we had a word for it: Power ballad. There is a version of this with the great (and gorgeous) Francois Hardy singing the French parts, this one has the chick from Stereolab. A strong song Celine Dion could cover. Grade: “A+”
Trouble In The Message Center – This song is the equivalent of the middle of a concert where you’re sitting through new album crap waiting to get to the hits and the encore. All very scary as our lives are controlled by outside sources, maybe outside machines. Grade: “C+”
Clover Over Dover – No white doves here, a depressing, downbeat, deadend. A low indeed. Grade: “B+”
Magic America – dripping with irony, he’d be better jumping off the cliffs of Dover. Grade: “B+”
Jubilee – Another character study. Young, middle aged, old, we all go round and round. Great chorus. Grade: “B+”
This Is A Low – The penultimate moment here but really the end. On the website songmeanings somebody explained it thus: “to me this song reminds me of walking out of an exam period back in school, where i knew i’d failed both exams and the sky was gray… ” That’s exactly right, though Alburn took this from a UK shipping forecast (it’s a weather low) so precisely right for an album seeped in ennui and nothingness. It goes round and round and round.
I love “Parklife” more than I appear to here. “Century” and “PL” are so good they carry the album forward and don’t allow the shoegazing or the proto-Ray Daviesisms to overwhelm you, the ballads are first rate and if nothing else as a firm believer in the importance of popularity, its huge success in England counts for a lot with me. Album Grade: “A”
In my youth in Manchester I dated a fairly promiscous, very pretty, extremely sweet and somewhat stupid blonde named Patricia . I liked her a lot, maybe loved her. Oasis’ “Definitely M
aybe” is the aural equivalent of this girl. It is a ridiculously good album, and, equally ridiculous, Oasis were releasing EP after EP at the time. Noel gallagher must have written twenty of these songs, maybe more, in a row. He was too smart for his own good -Noel has spent his entire career explaining that it isn’t that easy, folks with not a thought in your pretty head but how good life can feel.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Star – Those fucking guitars rev up their engines and Liam sneers in that world beating leering, cold timbre. His dreams become real and he sings them into being. Grade: “A+”
Shakemaker -Knocking off the New Seekers with nonsense lyrics and a three guitar attack, riffs our specialty and a bad attitude. Grade: “A”
Live Forever – so Noel can’t write a lyric all the way through, he can certainly write a couplet or two. “Live Forever” is the anti-Blur, Blur will go round and then stop dead, Oasis have a call to everyone to everlasting life. It is a song of faith but like their beloved Lennon, it’s faith in yourself. Killer guitar solo. Grade” “A+”
Up In the Sky – finally, this is pretty and exciting but ordinary and essentially filler. Grade: “B”
Columbia – six minutes of killer hardcore rock guitars: so much melody, so much sound: its like a wall of rock. And Liam. No heart of course, but we’re used to that by now. Grade: “A+”
Supersonic – All Noel seems able to do on this album is to write about what he is doing. It’s like a mirror, it relects right back on itself and it is wonderful stuff. Grade: “A+”
Bring It On Down – Noel tears himself from the Underclass he is a part of, scraping it off his shoe. Great coda. Grade: “B”
Cigarettes And Alcohol – And cocaine as well of course, but not too speedy on yet another self-portrait. Mega guitar break, Liam at his best. Grade: “A+”
Digsy’s Diner – This could be a nursery rhyme, or Altered Images could cover it, or something. I love the opening couplet “What a life it would be if you’d come tonight for tea…” then the lyric belly flops but who cares. Grade: “A+”
Slide Away – The honest roar of rock and roll. Top vocal performance. All of Liam’s vocals here are incredible -he sounds youthful and jaded at the same time. This man makes the most positive statement: “live forever,” “slide away,” “feeling supsersonic” sound like a threat. It’s a perfect match for Noel’s lyric: he takes the silliness out and replaces it with sting. Grade: “A”
“Married With Children” Wow -acoustic guitars to take us out and he coulda written it for my old pal Patricia!!! Perfect song except for a naff rhyme here and there. Grade “A+”.
“Definitely Maybe” is just one home room after another, it is a relentlessly melodic attack and it has weathered the years very, very well. Album Grade: “A+”
Both albums were huge hits and a year later Blur and Oasis duked it out, Blur with the deeply flawed “The Great Escape” and Oasis with the essentially perfect “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory”. Oasis won the battle and became the biggest group in the UK but Blur won the next round when “Song 2” blew up big in the States and Alburn bettered everybody with his electronic animated group “Gorillaz” sold more than everybody else combined.
All these years later I still try and see Oasis whenever they come to town, thought they were dreadful last year at MSG but some nights they’re on the money. Liam still with his arms behind him, still sneering. Noel had a pretty good live solo released earlier this year. And Blur have just reformed so I guess they’ll make it back to NYC before the end of next year. Still, in 1994 these two bands looked at life in Britain from different ends of the social and economic and philosophical spectrum and whether they found a reason to be alive simply the neccessity of time passing or the joy of time everlasting, their views were equally exciting and equally valid.
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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – January 1983 (Volume 14, Number 8)
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