Blur were an era-defining band active during the Britpop era of the 1990s. Arguably one of the greatest bands to have ever existed; from Daman Albarn’s definitive nasally vocal tone to Graham Coxon’s ability to make his guitar do whatever he wants it to do in varying degrees of British pomp and productivity; all the way through to the group’s collective pop sensibilities, Blur truly had the entire package.
While for the most part, they released brilliant music throughout their entire catalogue, Blur’s career is fraught with friction within the band and outside. They became somewhat infamous when they went head-to-head with another important Britpop band from the ’90s, Oasis during what was aptly titled ‘The Battle of Britpop’.
While Oasis proved to come up on top a few times — ultimately, it was Blur who proved to be more groundbreaking, in that they challenged themselves continuously. Albarn and co. successfully explored a whole array of different genres and were never content with settling on their definitive Britpop sound.
After Blur, their final Britpop record, they would go on to create arthouse driven avant-garde rock and pop music, starting with 1998’s 13, right up until their latest record, The Magic Whip in 2015. It speaks highly of a group that was never willing to rest on their laurels. But, if you’re struggling with where to start when it comes to Blur, then we’ve got you covered.
We decided to take a look at their expansive catalogue and rank, from worst to best, all of their albums.
Blur’s albums ranked from worst to best:
8. Leisure (1991)
Blur’s debut came in 1991 and seemed to fit nicely into the landscape of Britain’s admittedly confusing musical identity. Blur fell right into the confusion, and what’s worse is that this fall feels accidental. The album represents Blur in mid-motion; it has left its place but never arrived. Leisure saw a young promising band still finding its footing and exploring the path that lay ahead.
Having said that, the album still contains some strong numbers: ‘She’s So High’, ‘Bad Day’, and ‘There’s No Other Way’, for example, all rank highly as some of the band’s better cuts. Luckily, there was still a lot more to come and much better stuff at that.
7. Think Tank (2003)
The Britpop band’s seventh album, Think Tank, was released four years after 13 and continues in the same experimental vein as that record. This record, however, is missing a very important piece of the equation, and that is guitar player, Graham Coxon.
The band continued experimenting with sampled loops, dance music, some African influences and even hip hop. Although the record appears at number seven on this list, the album does much to represent Blur’s best aspects: they are an experimental band that rarely ever lets anyone pigeonhole them.
6. Magic Whip (2015)
Blur’s latest record came as a surprise; the album did well commercially, probably because it was their first record in 12 years, but it didn’t quite reach the heights audiences had hoped for, despite reaching number one on the UK Charts. The band also worked with a collaborator from their past, Stephen Street, who did their 1997 eponymous record.
As far as Blur records are concerned, they did a great job at creating their unique brand of art-pop, flecking the record with gems of their canon. For me, the record is a little bland, and knowing what they can do and have done in the past, the album doesn’t quite hit the mark.
5. 13 (1999)
13 is probably Blur’s most experimental record, and it marks the start of their shift away from the framework of Britpop. The majority of the album contains starkly dissident avant-garde rock songs, with a smattering of beautiful hits, ‘No Distance Left to Run’, ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ sang by Graham Coxon, and the opening track, ‘Tender’.
On the band changing direction in terms of style of music, bassist Alex James noted, “I think you just have to keep changing. That sort of thinking was, sort of, key.” This would prove to be an everlasting formula that works for Blur.
4. Modern Life is Rubbish (1994)
An overall underrated and overshadowed record, Modern Life is Rubbish sees Blur invent a new form of British psychedelic pop. After the release of their debut, Leisure, Blur faced some serious media backlash and started getting overshadowed by other rival Britpop bands. This record would undercut those accusations.
After Blur were facing the risk of getting dropped by their label because of how bad the reaction to their first record was, the band had to figure out a new approach. Upon returning from an American tour, Daman Albarn began listening to a whole lot of The Kinks, whose influence would find its way onto Modern Life is Rubbish.
3. The Great Escape (1995)
The Great Escape came out a year after their groundbreaking LP, Parklife, both of which are considered two of Britpop’s greatest records. This is one of the albums that determined that Daman Albarn is a great songwriter in the tradition of Ray Davies of The Kinks, in that he had a very sharp eye and a way with words.
The Great Escape is one of their poppiest albums, but don’t let that give you a bad impression – one could call it ‘progressive pop’, in that the songs are not very predictable. Longtime Blur producer Stephen Street did his magic on the record; best songs include, ‘Country House’, ‘Best Days’, and ‘Charmless Man’.
2. Blur (1997)
This one is a fan favourite and should be at least near the top of anyone’s Blur list. A quintessential Blur record, songs like ‘Beetlebum’, ‘Song 2’, and ‘Strange News from a Star’ confirm the LPs legendary status.
One thing’s for sure; the album certainly doesn’t lack any brilliant and witty Britpop songs. It shines brightly as some of the group’s greatest work and uses the implementation of a late-coming self-titled LP, a la Fleetwood Mac, to devastating effect.
When Blur and Oasis were having it out in the clash of who was the best brit-pop band in Britain, Blur was largely overshadowed by Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? But, looking back, it’s hard to see why.
1. Parklife (1994)
Released on 25th of April in 1994 via Food Records; while Oasis won the battle, Blur won the war, and it was with this record. The record would come to be one of the defining moments of the Britpop movement in the ’90s in Britain.
“When our third album comes out, our place as the quintessential English band of the ’90s will be assured. That is a simple statement of fact. I intend to write it in 1994,” Daman Albarn said confidently. Turns out, he was right. Perhaps it was written in the stars.
It’s an album that will, ultimately with time, prove to be one of the defining moments of the band’s career and the 1990s as a whole. Put simply, if Blur’s Parklife isn’t considered a British classic in the coming years then we may as well give up.