Vinyl love: Blur “Blur”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Blur
Album Title: Blur
Year released: 1997
Year reissued: 2012
Details: 5 of 7 in Blur 21, anniversary box set, black vinyl, 180 gram, 2 x LP, Gatefold sleeve

The skinny: After the ridiculous Britpop excesses of “The great escape”, Damon, Graham, Alex, and Dave changed things up completely, looking across the ocean at lo-fi alternative bands like Pavement. Their obvious courting of America paid off with their biggest hit ever in the US – the ubiquitous “Song 2” (or as many know it, ‘The woo hoo song’) – but it’s not even close to the best song on the album.

Standout track: “On your own”

Best tunes of 2000: #2 The Dandy Warhols “Bohemian like you”

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Thumping bass drums over a lovely bed of organs, the raunchiest of Keith Richards-ian guitar riffs is answered by a muscle-bound and growling bass line and then come the vocals, Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s uber cool delivery. “You got a great car. Yeah, what’s wrong with it today? I used to have one too, maybe I’ll come and have a look. See, we’re looking pretty cool.” And so begins the hilarious, but awesome rocker “Bohemian like you” by The Dandy Warhols.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

I saw The Dandy Warhols perform for the first time back in 1997 at the now-defunct Guvernment in Toronto, opening for The Charlatans. I didn’t really know who they were at the time, save for hearing their big single, “Not if you were the last junkie on earth”, quite a bit on the local alternative radio station. They didn’t do much for my girlfriend (now wife) Victoria, who was with me, but they made an indelible impression on me with their edgy and noisy, but indubitably fun rock. So much so that their name stuck with me (how could it not?) and when their third album, “Thirteen tales of urban bohemia”, came out in 2000, I jumped on the CD immediately.

It was for this album that the Portland-based four-piece shed some (but not all) of their atmospheric excesses and slacker/prankster sensibilities and I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but they produced a very tight, guitar rock album with some glam touches, here and there. “Thirteen tales” is great listening and after only once, I had deemed it necessary to share it with all my music-loving friends. I definitely remember one particular Saturday afternoon bringing it with me to my friend Tim’s place where it was one of many albums that we span during an afternoon/evening session of the board game, Axis & Allies. I pre-empted it by calling it “something we definitely would have been all over back in high school” because I noticed some questioning looks from my friends on account of the band’s name. But the album definitely made a mark on my foes for the afternoon, especially with my host, who, I think, saw them live the following year.

“Bohemian like you” is the ninth such tale from urban bohemia and is likely one of the tracks to bring them their greatest exposure, after placement in TV ads and appearances in countless films. As I mentioned before, it’s a hell of a rocker, like many of the tracks on the album. But this one, in my opinion, is elevated slightly higher by its ability to not take itself, nor its performers too seriously. The lyrics seem both a romanticization and an indictment of the hipper (or so they think) segment of the gen-x crowd, or the pre-hipsters, if you will. Playing like one side of a conversation between a guy and the girl he is courting, the guy talks himself up, offering to get her a free vegan meal at the restaurant he waits tables at, for instance. And ironically, shows himself as nothing much more than a great haircut.

All that to say, it’s a great song that begs being played and replayed and is second to only one other in this list of my fave tunes of 2000. Stay tuned for number one.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1990: #13 The Sundays “Here’s where the story ends”

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The Sundays’ “Here’s where the story ends” epitomizes for me the dog days of summer, something we have yet to really experience here in Ottawa, Canada this year. The song is jangly and full of sunshine, yet you don’t have to make a lot of movements to be able to dance to it. Instead, the peppy yet subdued guitar strumming backbone of the song, warms you up, bringing to mind some of the more upbeat tunes from The Smiths’ repertoire, and yet Harriet Wheeler’s vocals are completely different than those of Morrissey. Less affected and more natural and yes, actually cheerful.

The Sundays were formed by Wheeler and David Gavurin in 1988. While they added members to become a four piece by the time they recorded any material, the original duo were the main creative force behind this British alternative rock band. They released their debut album, “Reading, writing, and arithmetic”, in 1990 and it was a creative and commercial success, reaching number 4 on the UK charts and 39 in the US, mostly on the back of “Here’s where the story ends”. They released two more albums in the nineties, with each selling about the same amount of units as the debut. After that, silence. They have never officially broken up but it’s been almost twenty years since their last release. Apparently, Wheeler and Gavurin, after taking time away to raise their two children, have been working on new material, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will ever see the light of day. The couple are notorious for taking their time and are perfectionists when it comes to their own music.

Still, we have a pretty solid body of work from the band in the 1990s. “Here’s where the story ends” is a particularly lovely slice of joy. So bring on the sunshine.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.