Here’s the Apple music blurb for the Blur’s self-titled fifth album.

“Worn down by fame, Britpop, and each other, Blur, re-emerged in 1997 a changed band. Opening shot “Beetlebum” married Damon Albarn’s Kinksy melodies to guitar work that owed as much to Stephen Malkmus as it did to George Harrison. And so it went with Blur, which ditched Albarn’s cozy Anglicisms for more cryptic, autobiographical lyrics, hedged in Graham Coxon’s newfound love of the U.S. underground. “Song 2” and “Chinese Bombs” go furthest out, but the band’s knack for pop melodies always remains blissfully intact.”

I think it’s a good summary of the overall musical shift. I don’t much account for lyrics in this exercise but point taken on Albarn’s shifting POV regarding narration regarding these tunes. Also, as we will see, there are way more out there songs on this release than “Song 2” and “Chinese Bombs”.

Blur (S/T)

Track 1: “Beetlebum: This was the first single, even though it doesn’t really sound like it should be a single. It’s a 5 minute song. There is less clutter than songs on the previous albums, a bit more straightforward tune. I really liked the “clutter” but this also works fantastically. The last 1:50 of the song is sublime, just a band jamming confidently, with great guitar work by Coxon and Albarn repeating, “He’s on, he’s on, he’s on it” which refers to him taking heron with ex girlfriend Justine Frischmann of Elastica. There are also some nice noisy samples being tossed in. Great opening track.

Track 2: “Song 2“: Blur’s most popular song (if not highest charting) and still a staple during sporting events to this day. Great drum lead in and killer guitar riff from Coxon as Albarn screams the now iconic “Whoo-Hoooo”. It’s essentially a punk song done in the way Blur does punk. Still a jolt of energy to this day.

Tack 3: “Country Sad Ballad Man“: A bit of an off kilter opening that could have fit in with the previous few releases, but Albarn has a crazy high falsetto that he pulls off in a call and response to himself. The song builds beautifully while retaining signature weirdness. Coxon has much more freedom so far on this album than the previous ones. It’s evident on this song. They retain the oddness they’ve always had but it’s just done a bit differently so far, fantastic song.

Track 4: “M.O.R.“: Nice musical intro with guitar, then drums, then bass, then pianos. Quick tempo and this song sounds like a typical rollicking Blur song to me, maybe with a bit different intro. Another great song, 4/4 so far. Another great outro, they crush outros more than any band ever possibly.

Track 5: “On Your Own”: This is just a fantastic song. The band is all engaged sonically and vocally. I love when they all “harmonize” or at least sing together on songs. They have the insane carnival barking here. This is a constant on their albums and makes its first appearance here. Some more sampling towards the end of the song. There’s also an ambulance sound, which could be a reference to the cover art of the album. Just great.

Track 6: “Theme From Retro”: We get a bit of a callback to “Oily Water” musically, but in a less serious manner. Horror show organ, spy vs spy bass. This sounds like it could have been on an episode of “Twin Peaks” as a joke. It totally works for me though lol.

Track 7: “You’re So Great”: As mentioned I don’t pay much attention to lyrics. So I just now looked at the lyrics for this song. I always thought Albarn was saying, “Set drum to Polly” which makes no sense. He’s actually saying, “Sad, drunk, and poorly” lol. Also, it’s Coxon singing not Albarn. A great acoustic guitar and just fantastics simple song, with more great electric guitar work. Very stripped down but successful.

Track 8: “Death of a Party”: Highlight of the album and one Blur’s best songs ever. 5 star banger all the way here. A bit of a dubby vibe from a production standpoint. Just a stunner all the way around. This has a bit of an element of the hip hop vibe that has permeated some of the past work and will definitely define more of the sounds on 13 and definitely Albarn’s Gorillaz output, but just touches, this is definitely a Blur song and they whole band is firing on all cylinders here. The outro has the dub/hip hop vibe for sure.

Track 9: “Chinese Bombs“: 1:25 minute punk song. They smash these types of songs. Good song.

Track 10: “I’m Just a Killer for Your Love“: This song is fine, the worst on the album so far. It’s not necessarily bad it’s just that the album has been fire up to this point. First miss.

Track 11: “Look Inside America”: Another song with acoustic guitar, which is atypical for Blur. Heavy use of strings. This is the Blur Beatlesesque song for this album. Again, not bad, but a bit of a lull. Just not up to the level of the first 9 songs. Second miss for me.

Track 12: “Strange News from Another Star”: They get back on track in a big way here. This song is an another 5 star banger. A way more psychedelic sound than typical Blur. This song is a bit of a tribute to Bowie, it sounds more like one of his songs than they’ve ever done, and they just crush this semi-tribute to him. Amazing musicianship, vocal delivery and production values. Great listen on head phones.

Track 13: “Movin’ On“: Fantastic song that could have been on any of the previous three albums as well. Just nicely done. The lyrics are super fuzzed out. Albarn is majorly fucking with his voice and the production is doing the same the entire album. It’s a totally success.

Track 14: “Essex Dogs”: They crush the last song on the album. 5 star banger alert. They have never sounded like this before. Just pure musical chaos and experimentation, with Albarn doing just word association using his cockney accent to great effect. The rhythm section does a great job here, the drums are produced wonderfully and James has a stellar jaunty baseline. Coxon and Albarn just go crazy with the musical pyrotechnics. Stunning work. Another note, on my initial purchase (the cd back in 1997) I have an 11 minute plus minute version with 3 musical segments, that has been shortened to an 8 minute version that forgoes the third segment. The best album ender of their career and one of my favorites of all-time. Bravo.

Back to the Apple blurb from the beginning of this post. I can see it as working on some level but I don’t feel as drastic a change in overall sound. They retain some of the elements and sound that have been successful throughout their career but there is a bit of a different approach and some true innovation that we haven’t seen before for the fellas. Just a fantastic album.

5 Star Bangers: “Death of a Party”, “Strange News From Another Star”, “Essex Dogs”

Everything else 4 star level minus “I’m Just a Killer for Your Love” and “Look Inside America”, the only duds on the album.

Allmusic review of Blur 4.5/5 stars