13 – Blur

Britpop. That is the first word that comes to mind when people think of Blur. As one of the
leaders in the 90’s British pop music scene, Blur’s lyrical themes posed as social commentaries
on English life. My discovery of Blur veers differently, as I only knew Song 2 from their self-
titled growing up. After hearing another song in a friends car, I decided to take a dive into their
catalog, beginning with the Madchester influenced jangle pop Leisure. My listening journey did
not stay linear for long, as I jumped to Think Tank, an album that drew influence from African
and electronic music, an album that could slightly veer towards a Gorillaz sound. After
skimming through Parklife for several days, and an almost month-long drought from Blur, I
decided to listen to 13, which was one of the best album discoveries I’ve had in the last year.
Speaking from the Blur albums I have heard thus far, 13 sees a distinct sound from the
rest. The album takes a more personal songwriting approach as opposed to their earlier Britpop
records, starting with a 7-minute- long song: Tender, written about lead singer Damon’s breakup
with Justine Frischmann. The song’s reflective and melancholy, and is a beautiful opener for a
beautiful album. The album’s sound takes a sharp left turn with Bugman, referring to lead singer
Damon Albarn’s experience with heroin. Bugman evokes a feeling of entering an upside-down
world where I am feeling ok one minute, but the next minute I am running from a dark, faceless
creature who is violently provoking me and laughing while doing so; by the end of the song, I
am overtaken by this darkness, with my only light being used to warn others to learn from my
mistakes. Just when I think I am going to continue down this pitch-black path that 13 has paved
for me, the Graham Coxon lead Coffee and TV makes me feel like I am once again living my
suburban life, overwhelmed by obligations and faults, praying for a break. Coffee and TV is
somewhat of an outlier for the rest of the album, but is nonetheless amazing. As the first song
I’ve heard with Coxon on lead vocals, I was happy to see his style on the record and appreciated
his personal lyrics to the song. Another personal highlight of the album is Battle, a song that
repeats the title word effectively. The unusual lyrics and structure, along with the experimental
and atmospheric sound gave me a feeling of trying to win a losing battle with my personal
demons. A hidden gem of 13 is Trailerpark, a song that starts off with a lo-fi production that
transports me into an episode of Courage the Cowardly dog, only to take me back to reality, but
where I am walking alone in the desert approaching dusk. Compared to the other songs,
Trailerpark is a simpler tune, yet perfectly captures the overall bleak mood of 13. Caramel is one
of the darkest songs on the album, continuing the theme of Albarn’s breakup and his use of
heroin. The song creates a sorrowful and somber atmosphere, making me really feel Albarn’s
struggle at that point in his life. 13’s closer, Optigan 1 follows their previous work of
instrumental ends, such as in Parklife. Unlike Parklife’s zany and playful Lot 105, Optigan 1
presents a slightly creepy and haunting sound that ties the album’s tone together.
Blur’s 13 proves that a band can change their sound, but can still generate great music. While
their Britpop albums are fun, enjoyable, and fantastic in their own right, 13 displays that Blur’s
music is much more dynamic, cementing their credit beyond a music scene.

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