[Album Review] “Parklife” – Blur

Parklife - BlurAlbum Title: Parklife
Artist: Blur
Year: 1994
Running Time: 52m 52s

Track listing: 1 Girls & Boys; 2 Tracy Jacks; 3 End of a Century; 4 Parklife; 5 Bank Holiday; 6 Badhead; 7 The Debt Collector; 8 Far Out; 9 To The End; 10 London Loves; 11 Trouble in the Message Centre; 12 Clover Over Dover; 13 Magic America; 14 Jubilee; 15 This is a Low; 16 Lot 105

This is the album that really broke Blur as a mainstream favourite. Strangely it is an album that long time fans could enjoy too even if it does aspire to be a chart topper.

‘Girls & Boys’ is definitely the most famous song ever about Britons abroad. It certainly pulls no punches as it describes the reality of love on the beaches of Greece. It’s the straight-talking focused onslaught of Damon Albarn’s vocals that really makes the difference. ‘Tracy Jacks’ is the tale of a civil servant suffering a midlife crisis in much the same way as Reginald Perrin did. The firm bass and drum vertebrae manages to staunchly hold the song together very well. Nice tune.

‘Parklife’ has to be one of the finest Britrock tunes ever. In an interesting and successful move, actor Phil Daniels guest vocals over a repetitive but addictive chord. He explains how the mundane everyday existence of your average Joe can be fulfilling to one and all. There’s not a dancefloor in Europe that doesn’t explode in unison to this.

The future is welcomed by an unimpressed Albarn in ‘End of a Century’. He tells us that the ‘end of a century is nothing special’. Nice acoustic, trombone and flugelhorn touches and the backing vocals blend in well with the overall direction of the track.

Parlez-vouz Francais? Blur touched on continental sentiment in this melodic orchestral gem. Lending a guest backing vocal is French female singer, Laetitia Sadie, who weighs in seductively behind Albarn. The song was later re-recorded in a duet with . Francois Hardy and released as a single.

‘London Loves’ is a cool little ditty dedicated to London and the impersonal and unforgiving nature of the big city. It is fairly reminiscent of early stuff and certainly retains street credibility. The eighties are revisited for ‘Trouble in the Message Centre’ which rocks along like a modern sounding Human League.

‘Magic America’ is comical but devestatingly cute and cynical at the same time. It’s the tale of a young man who wants to go to ‘magic America’ where ‘fifty nine cents gets you a good square meal from the people who care how you feel’. Biting, hilarious stuff. ‘Jubilee’ could have been written about me. A seventeen year old kid who ‘dresses incorrectly’, no one teaching him where to go or how to dress not that he cares. Damn good song but as I listened to ‘He dresses incorrectly…no one told him how to do it’, I couldn’t help thinking of ‘Oh Micky, you’re so fine…’. You’ll no what I mean when you hear it. It just amused me, ok?

‘Badhead’ is nice. Mid-tempo’d and tuneful and tastefully flanked by an appropriate sax and trombone support and while not exactly groundbreaking, ‘This is a Low’ is a suitably solemn acoustic number which is pleasing enough.

I’m not overly impresssed with ‘Bank Holiday’ which is a speedy throwaway 100 second experience and ‘Clover Over Dover’ sounds uneasy with its convenient rhymes and its thin repetitive sound. ‘Far Out’, ‘Lot 105’ and ‘The Debt Collector’ are forgettable enough too and seem to be just filling material.

Without the poorer songs, “Parklife” would have been an excellent album but it’s just a little too long and a bit too full of fillers for me to say that. It is a good disc though and contains some of the best Britrock songs of the 90s.

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