Blur live at Freetown,
Reviewed by NME, 30 March
Potter than July!
the train creeps trough Etruria (yes, it is on the earth - look it up!)
I'm flipping through a music paper (it doesn't matter which) when I come
across an interview with some current indie great white hope (it doesn't
matter which). Listen to this: "I couldn't work in a office...I'm too
special...having a job just occupies your time so you don't have to
think." In a flash of insight, I realise what complete tosspots these
people are - with their blank little faces, awful clothes, and their
tiny undernourished version of rock 'n' roll, bereft of sex, love, anger
or menace. This is not a good start to the evening.
Then, a little later, I see Blur and
change my mind. Almost completely. Blur are, it has to be said, very
much a product of their times. There's nary a reference point in their
music later than 1968, their hair is right, and their shirts are worn
frankly and provocatively outside their trousers. But what distinguishes
Blur from some of their lamely groovy peers is that you get the
impression that beneath the obligatory mannerisms - the de rigeur
drumbeats and 'can't-be-arsed' delivery - there may just beat a raw and
palpitating heart of talent.
The Freetown Club nestles beneath the
pavements of downtown Hanley. Obviously a precious thing to its patrons,
it's an oasis of subversive NME-style fun in the Scampi and Chips
end of town. Toying with the rider, the Blurries wonder aloud whether
this was a good idea. But in the event, a cramped, subterranean bar is
probably the ideal setting for Blur's sound and its obvious affinities
with the Roundhouse and Marquee of 20 years ago.
In Blur's soundgarden, a more together
Syd Barrett performs punk version of Yardbirds songs while The Jimi
Hendrix Experience eat hash cakes by the dahlias. The ethos is
fashionably retro, but still modern enough to be exciting. 'Bad Day'
revolves dreamily around a great, drooling riff. 'Wear Me Down' flirts
with grunge like a flowered up Uriah Heep, and 'Mr Briggs' has captured
every nuance of the Ray Davies English story song. 'She's So High'
invokes lust at Mogadon pace.
But Blur have enough wide-eyed yet
steely love for the possibilities of rock that their music never becomes
mere revivalism. They are one of the first generation of bands not to
grow up in the shadow of The Clash, and therefore unafraid to plunder
the hippy legacy of their elder brother's record collection. But there
are some nicely sharp edges. New single 'There's No Other Way' is a
gleaming funk racket a la 'God's a Cop' and singer Damon bounces around
the store, hands clasped behind his back in a manner no one has done
since Slaughter And The Dogs.
The crowd loved it. They go potteries
(sorry). One or two dull tunes aside, I loved it too. Back at the hotel,
and after some Spinal Tap shenanigans with sandwiches, the
receptionist aks "Well, who are they? Are they famous?". "Next week,"
says the tour manager and, in this topsy turvey pop world, he may well
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