Blur - Parklife
NME, April 1994
THIS WEEK of all weeks it has been easy to
forget what a daft, wonderful thing pop music can be; how
it can zip into your life and make the world a happier
place. And in 1994 it's easy to forget what an album
actually is; CDs have turned us into album surfers,
skipping the fillers and forever programming in our
favourites. Help is here with 'Parklife', something that
will help all of us remember. Put simply, it is a Great
And for once it's an LP that deserves to be
played from start to finish; sure there are bumps and
detours along the way but somehow these are part of the
appeal. The first four tracks will knock yer sideways,
and by the time you hear Phil Daniels holler
"Oi!" in his role as guest parky on the
knockabout title track you will know this is no ordinary
LP. It's a mess, all over the place, no song blends
easily into the next, they all jar into each other like
some home-made compilation chucked together when you were
pissed. And so a buttery pop tune like 'End Of a Century'
is followed by the spiky punk attack of 'Bank Holiday'
and then a spot of trad German 'oompah' drinking music.
('The Debt Collector'). On paper it sounds like hell, in
practice it's joyous - a band prepared to have a laugh,
to forget about the pomposity that surrounds the music
business. Amid the mayhem it takes two plays before you
discover the album's two true gems - the John
Barry/Walker Brothers epic 'To The End' and the languid
'Bedhead' - which is kind of like discovering a fiver in
a jacket you haven't worn for months.
It begins, as all pop albums should, with a
hit single, 'Girls And Boys', a song that sounds as if it
was designed by robots as a soundtrack to fun-fair bumper
car rides - pointed, niggly, angular and persistently
catchy, it's strange and magnificent that something so
obtuse should have been taken to the nation's bosom.
Testament to its success is the way it has inspired such
ardent, nosebleeding hatred among rock puritans. Nothing
like a spot of oversprung pop muzik to wind up Grandad
Rock - and Blur are past masters at it.
From their beginnings, Blur have got up
peoples' noses with a strike-rate that more blatantly
antagonistic bands can only dream of. During baggy, when
it was cool to look like Peter Beardsley's less
attractive cousin, Blur were unabashed pin-ups. Later,
when their contemporaries stared at their plimsolls and
courted grunge attitude, they employed a brass section
and looped around like space hoppers. And as we looked to
Seattle for new language, Albarn name-checked Primrose
Hill and sang with an accentuated Southern accent that
hadn't been heard since the likes of Anthony Newley were
Still Blur were accused of that most heinous
of crimes - the jumping of bandwagons. Yet they
re-invented themselves, it was no corporate marketing
play, and what 18 months ago looked like retrograde
precociousness (sticking up for Little England as US
culture steamrollered into Hertfordshire) is not little
short of maverick genius.
'Parklife' is 'Modern Life Is Rubbish's'
older brother - bigger, bolder, narkier and funnier.
Musically they're leagues better than before, the
ill-formed ideas have reached fruition and lyrically Blur
now find themselves at the end of an inheritance that
starts with The Kinks and The Small Faces and goes
through to Madness and The Jam. Not just because they are
blatantly inspired by all four - the comparisons are easy
to make - but because they articulate the everyday world
with equal potency and humour. Where Ray Davies saw
beauty in the skies over Waterloo Station, Damon Albarn
sees it in the mirror ball above a Mykonos dancefloor.
And while contemporaries like Pulp are drawn towards the
seedy glamour of sex behind the net curtains, Blur see
the mundanity and ennui of suburban living.
Although they may affect the stance of council estate
lads (the sleeve artwork pictures them down the dog track) the
characters knowingly portrayed in much of 'Parklife'.