"Enter Blur's sixth studio album, 13."

In Blur's case, the debate is rather slippery. Blur has always seemed a bit clever for us to believe that they had suddenly changed and were now, on Blur, speaking from their hearts. The myth-making machinery of rock stardom and marketing often dupes us into giving more credit to some artists than is their due, but Blur really did seem to be a smart bunch and easily capable of altering their style with as much calculation as they put into the song-writing on their first four albums. Maybe they were mimicking David Bowie, who with each successive album adopted a new personality. Or, for that matter, maybe they were calculating entrepreneurs, like Madonna, driven to change by whatever music style is popular at the moment. Or maybe, as each band member began to approach 30, they were truly attempting to express their internal feelings.

Enter Blur's sixth studio album, 13. Inevitably, critics have labeled this self-conscious project stage two in the band's project to re-invent itself. The album's diverse collection of songs and its reliance on the latest forms of recording technology (just listen to the song "Caramel," spliced diced and computer-enhanced from several takes) superficially link it to Blur more than with the group's previous four efforts. Just because there seems to be an emphasis on "electronic manipulation" during the recording of the album (techno-wizard William Orbit produced 13), however, does not reduce this effort to the kind of technology fetishism that is so prevalent in late 90's rock. On the contrary, it is a muddy, disjointed production that uses technology to create disorienting effects. The technology is not employed to add the kind of polish you might want on a typical acoustic recording.


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