BLUR - UNDER THE WESTWAY
Welcome back from globetrotting, mates…
Jonathan Bogart: It’s hard for me to tell whether my liking for this is because it’s genuinely a strong piece of work or because Damon Albarn crooning above a bed of half-twinkly, half-fuzzy rock just triggers all my old “The Universal”-swooning endorphins. I guess at a certain point it doesn’t actually matter — liking something is liking something, and nostalgia is as valid a source of emotional power as any other — but the Aging Anglophile isn’t the strongest position of authority from which to recommend anything.
Iain Forrester: Could be the cynical product of hearing 50,000 people singing their hearts out to “This is a Low” last time and putting together that songs featuring sentimentality + geography + weather + Coxon’s guitar noises = success. Could be that this is a Good, the Bad and the Queen song with better guitar parts. What guitar parts, though! A layer of anguished haze but notes of triumph breaking through, not a moment more than is necessary and impossible to mistake for anyone else. And what a turn of phrase to go with them! The wry “I apologise but I am going to sing…”, the part that conjures the Last Post to go with “Best Days” and, most of all, “Men in yellow jackets putting adverts inside my dreams”, a screwed up and haunting and amazing image. Could be that I am hopelessly biased as a fan and a London resident. The glaze that came over me the first time I heard the pinprick intro lead into “There were blue skies in my city today” and heard it echo as my city is certainly evidence in favour of that argument. Whatever. This is magnificent.
Anthony Easton: Well, we know what happens when any irony is squeezed out and replaced with an almost tone deaf sincerity: orchestral earnestness like this. Some points for the glockenspiel, some points taken away for the generalities of “my city” and the use of Alleluia.
Alfred Soto: How much these guitars gently weep depends on your attachment to a band whose last notable record competed against Backstreet Boys’ Millennium in the summer album stakes. After years of globetrotting Damon Albarn returns to his jus’ folks ‘tude, offering nostalgia for the converted.
Brad Shoup: I understand that the idea of Blur v. Oasis was one of those odd cultural surpluses, but if this sounds like the guns’ distant echo to me, imagine how my radio-breathing countrypeople would feel.
Patrick St. Michel: I cop to not knowing much about the Westway beyond what appears on the Wikipedia page about it, so I could be missing something important from this Blur song. In that case, what I hear is a track with a lonely atmosphere and some good lines (“down to earth/where the money always comes first”), but also a track shooting to be so grand sounding that it hurts the solitary vibe. Also doesn’t help that “Tender” pulled this off way better 13 years ago.
Edward Okulicz: Let It Be with a head cold. And only four minutes long. Both of those things constitute improvements as far as I’m concerned. It’s like if “Tender” hadn’t got overwhelmed by ambition and had taken the loneliness in its verses to their logical extremes. That’s an improvement too.
Sabina Tang: The first 40 seconds are an atavistic pleasure of anticipation: the entirely 13 gated guitar stutter, the plangent Great Escape keyboard. Then Damon Albarn opens his mouth and hits a piano chord and one experiences a moment of whiteout confuzzlement, because isn’t John Lennon pastiche supposed to be Liam’s schtick? …If I were only interested in the bon mot I’d leave off there, but the alarmist bit I want to point out is that the rest of the band is going along with Damon’s nonsense. Blur, like New Order, is a band where each core instrument has a distinct character, and much of the energy of their best work comes from the sense that the centrifugal force (every member doing just want he wants) just matches the centripedal (the whole hangs together as a miraculously tight unit). The driblets of new material I’ve heard since the reunion have been entirely too polite and consensus-seeking. I mean, this gets a  because Albarn is a genius pastichist and I happen to enjoy the Beatles, but dudes need to stop living in terror of the fact that he tells the media he’ll deep-six the band every time a rehearsal doesn’t go well.
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The first time in about six months that I was able to submit Singles Jukebox blurbs on a Tuesday! *pats self on back for feat of time management*
(Tuesday is Trash Day on my street, plus it’s the evening I host my 10:30PM-11:30PM community radio show that I have to prep for, plus it’s one of the days Singles Jukebox closes early for editing. Yesterday — miraculously — I wrote blurbs for Beirut and Blur, went to a Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars gig, and made it to the radio station with minutes to spare. But I suspect it’s easier to blurb a band one knows a lot about, regardless of the quality of the actual song.)