Blur's 13:  Mind vs. Body

by Jeffrey Parker Thompson

Can pop music have a soul? Our resident music critic ponders the latest album from Blur.

  Reviewers were quick to call Blur's self-titled fifth album a rebirth. The band had apparently exhausted all the possibilities of Brit-pop and Blur, produced in 1997, was supposed to be a testament to the band's self-conscious wish to move beyond meticulous, cerebral XTC-laced songcraft. In spite of the typical concessions to the rock song hook --the hit "Song 2," for example -- the band seemed to be trying to lay bare its soul.


"...the true soul of the band..."

This characterization assumed, however, that Blur laid bare the band's soulful side more than the cleverly crafted pop songs on Parklife (1994) or The Great Escape (1995). It is possible that the true "soul" of the band is embedded in the carefully woven pop fabric and alternative melodies of a song like "Country House" instead of in the looser, bluesier "Country Sad Ballad Man" on Blur. So which is it: are they the practitioners of intellectual pop as characterized by their first four albums, or are they a deeper, more soulful rock band? The same question might have been asked about Paul McCartney if the latter portion of his career had not provided the answer (his soul turned out to be saccharine). Still, he wrote "Martha My Dear" and "Honey Pie," but also "Helter Skelter" and "Why Don't We Do It in the Road." All appeared on The White Album.


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