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Of course, I read all the hype in the newspapers about a new Blur album, and people’s recollections of the phoney Blur v Oasis war which seemed so real at the time. Being quite a cynic, even at that age, I saw Oasis as a wanna be BEATLES (especially JOHN LENNON) - sure they wrote some good songs, but “What’s the Story (Morning Glory)” being proclaimed as the greatest album of all time – seriously? I bought a cassette tape of Blur’s “Park Life”, probably at my local Woolworth’s (!) and was quite taken by it- ‘Boys and Girls’ (or was it ‘Girls and Boys’), ‘Tracey Jacks’ and ‘Park Life’ itself- what was not to like? I caught a nice satirical KINKS kind of tone and a SMALL FACES cheeky chappy vibe. I followed them for a bit, but kind of lost interest, rekindled by Damon Albarn’s solo and band projects as the Gallagher brothers continued to make sporadic appearances.

So, what do I think of “The Ballad of Darren”? For me I wasn’t immediately taken by the first couple of tracks, but it is an album that grows. In fact, the raucous ‘St. Charles Square’, a horror story about something living under the floorboards with its disruptive, angular guitars was the Blur I remembered and I began to get sucked in. I imagined a crowd, phones in hand, at a festival singing along with those crazy lyrics, and it had one of those trademark sudden endings. ‘Barbaric’ started a sequence of songs that flow so well, a catchy as hell sing along. ‘Goodbye Albert’ could so easily have been a song from a classic DAVID BOWIE album. All-in-all the thought-provoking lyrics, the shimmering guitars, production moments like the weird apocalyptic distortion at the end of ‘The Heights’, the aching ballads all lead to one word: BLUR. Of course, I would have liked the odd longer number but, of course, I am a prog guy after all!

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