Blur

Midlife: A Beginner's Guide to Blur

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Released in conjunction with their 2009 reunion, the double-disc career retrospective Midlife emphasizes Blur's early psychedelic grind -- halfway between Syd Barrett and shoegazing -- along with their post-Brit-pop indie makeover, giving somewhat short shrift to the band's pop prime, cutting out four of the band's big hits ("There's No Other Way," "Country House," "End of the Century," and "Charmless Man") in favor of album tracks that play into the thesis that Blur were as somber and serious a guitar band as Radiohead. Of course, Blur did rival Radiohead, recording some of the greatest guitar rock of the '90s, but that was only one facet of the band: they were also a bright, artful pop band, cleverly twisting '60s traditions and post-punk styles into the present. Elements of this Blur are evident in "Girls & Boys" and "Parklife," hits so big they couldn't be ignored, and while Midlife could have used a heavier dose of this side of Blur, there's not a bad track here, and the set also brings their glorious, epoch-creating single "Popscene" back into circulation, so Midlife has some considerable value even if it avoids too many highlights to truly be "A Beginner's Guide to Blur" as its subtitle claims.

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