CD Review of Parklife by Blur
Blur: Parklife
Recommended if you like
The Kinks, The Jam, XTC
Label
Virgin Records
Blur: Parklife

Reviewed by David Medsker

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P
arklife was the Brit Pop battle cry, the album the UK rock scene used to mobilize their forces and take on the Americans once and for all. Lead singer Damon Albarn's goal with Parklife was simple: Kill grunge, which had been dominating UK airwaves ever since Kurt Cobain's Shot Heard Round The World. Amazingly, it worked. While there were albums released prior to Parklife that showed signs of things to come (Suede's debut, as well as Blur's previous effort Modern Life Is Rubbish), Parklife was the album that brought everyone together. It didn't just define British music in the 1990s. Parklife is a musical encyclopedia of classic British pop that will endure for years to come.

"Girls and Boys" gets things pumping, with a slinky bass line and tongue-twisting chorus ("Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do boys like they're girls who do girls like they're boys") that sounds like Robert Smith fronting Duran Duran. "Tracy Jacks" has a hint of the Who's "Happy Jack" in its story of a very confused young man ("I'd love to stay here and be normal / But it's just so overrated"). "Bank Holiday" recalls the Jam at the height of their fury, and "London Loves" is vintage Scary Monsters-era Bowie, with bonus points to guitarist Graham Coxon for this "Fame"-ish solo. "To The End" is a classic ballroom ballad in the vein of Gerry and the Pacemakers, though even to this day it's hard to tell whether it ends happily or not ("Well you and I collapsed in love / And it looks like we might have made it / Yes it looks like we've made it to the end"). "This is a Low" is one of the band's all time greats, a spooky weather forecast that seems to be from Mars rather than England.

Blur achieved full-blown success on this side of the pond two years later with "Song 2," a stripped down punk rocker that, ironically, sounded a lot like Nirvana. But Parklife remains their finest hour. There have been other great albums from the UK since (Radiohead's OK Computer and The Bends, Pulp's Different Class), but Parklife belongs in a class with The Queen Is Dead and Nevermind, albums that were representative of their time and yet also light years beyond it.

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