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13: A Masterpiece

Posted: 15 Jul 2017, 05:40
by TripleJay97
I still don't think this album receives the praise it deserves.

I'm sure you all know the history of 13, so I won't go into it, but it's just so fascinating to me how everything fell into place so perfectly for this giant moodpiece to come together. It sits comfortable on the shelf of the theory that better products come from artists in pain, when you take into account both Damon's breakup and Graham's alcoholism and social anxieties. What you end up with is a diary of two years worth of suffering, and that's evident in both the music and the lyrics.

Damon sounds fucking exhausted on this album. Even on this record, and not in a bad way. Emotionally, "I'm done with this," exhaustion. Think about him sighing his way through 'Trimm Trabb' or his voice cracking up in 'Bugman'. There are signs of wear and tear everywhere, and it totally fits the narrative In terms of vocal performances, there's no peppy 'Look Inside America's or 'M.O.R.'s to distract from the general downward tone of the album. The closest we get is something like 'B.L.U.R.E.M.I.', and even that seems like more of a genuinely angry stab at the music industry. Not to mention the fact that it's bookended by two of the most foreboding pieces of music I've ever heard.

Lyrically, we know the majority of the album is Damon using Blur as an outlet for his misery. What's so great here is that the lyrics on here aren't as black and white as they are on some break-up albums (not that I'm considering this solely as a break-up album; that would take a lot of credit away from Graham's role). Awareness of the concept adds a lot of depth to these songs; without knowing about Damon and Justine, 'Tender' sounds just like any other love song, but in reality "love's the greatest thing that we have" is so sarcastic and passive-aggressive that it's genuinely funny in a sad way.

Graham Coxon is the unsung hero of this album. His guitar playing is less polished, but also more complex and brilliant than it's ever been. The way the album sounds, it basically gives the impression that Graham built it up from the ground himself, a lot of its more atmospheric traits are the result of his pedal-wizardry. 'Bugman' could have easily just been another of the self-titled album's odes to grunge but instead we're treated to intense noise; some of the things he does in the latter minute and a half of that track are beyond my comprehension. He can also be given a large amount of credit for 'Caramel', which is given a dense amount of character by his various syncopated riffs played in the intro to the song and throughout. The 'Battle' Jam that emerged on the Blur 21 box set is great insight into how a lot of the guitar on the album was born.

Graham also shines on this album by continuing to leap his boundaries though. 'Coffee and TV' is Graham's second time stealing the spotlight after 'You're So Great' on the previous album, and as much as I like the latter, 'Coffee' is a much more developed and ambitious track, as well as the lyrics being so much more brilliant. The song is effectively a time capsule of Graham's mind at the time it was recorded, the references to his issues with people are there and his inability to understand their motivations or actions. Staying inside by the telly with the girl he loves is his coping mechanism.

I should also address how far the four boys have come in terms of musical composition, because there are songs on 13 that sound absolutely nothing like anything that came before them in terms of ambition and scope. Hell, Caramel itself is effectively a six minute progressive rock song. It builds from a lot of subtle, distant elements into a fuck-off crescendo of screaming guitar, gospel-esque wailing and some of the best drumming of Dave Rowntree's career. Could anyone have predicted this kind of dare from the same lads who wrote Parklife?

The album is also noticably scattered with tiny pieces of music tacked onto the end of certain tracks, sometimes referred to as 'exitludes'. Most of them are just organ pieces, but they're all brilliant and unsettling in their unique ways. I've always interpreted them as part of the narrative, as sort of bandages holding the album together, almost as physical representation of a failing relationship and both parties trying everything in their power to hold it together. I often ponder as to the origins of these pieces; maybe they're the results of extended studio jams. If so, give me that in a Blur rarities box. Or don't. I do enjoy the sense of mystery that this album surrounds itself with.

I never expected to end up writing this much, oh my god

Re: 13: A Masterpiece

Posted: 15 Jul 2017, 20:34
by Forever Low Man
good job

Re: 13: A Masterpiece

Posted: 15 Jul 2017, 21:31
by TripleJay97
thanks Ben. I just had a bit of a spree

Re: 13: A Masterpiece

Posted: 18 Jul 2017, 15:28
by UnderThePuritan
Love your work mate. I just have to say I've never felt as hopeless listening to a song as I have after '1992'. Graham's squalls of feedback are out of this galaxy. Heart-wrenching!!!

Re: 13: A Masterpiece

Posted: 20 Jul 2017, 06:31
by Mallard No. 22
It is obviously a favourite of yours TJ97 :D

Re: 13: A Masterpiece

Posted: 21 Jul 2017, 16:45
by TripleJay97
Well Mallard, it's basically the favourite. I've stopped being interested in making lists of my favourite albums of all time because it changes so much it's pretty much pointless, but there isn't an album in the world that makes me as emotional as 13 does.

Re: 13: A Masterpiece

Posted: 24 Jul 2017, 13:40
by stephen
You've just about convinced me to listen to it again tonight :D

Re: 13: A Masterpiece

Posted: 28 Jul 2017, 05:59
by Mallard No. 22
TJ97 - yes, favourite songs/albums are always revolving. Difficult to make a definite list. Though there are always those that mean something.