The Best of Blur

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

It's boring to point out omissions on hits compilations, especially when a collection is as generous as the 18-track The Best of Blur, but let's do it anyway. The Best of Blur largely bypasses the group's key album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, the record that invented Brit-pop, skewing in favor of the self-consciously "experimental" 13, which, for all of its attributes, wasn't a singles album. Plus, the group continues to punish the British record-buying public by not including the brilliant "Popscene" (to beat a dead horse, the single that invented Brit-pop), since nobody bought it at the time. So, without "Popscene," "Chemical World" or "Sunday Sunday," a crucial chapter of Blur's history is missing from The Best of Blur -- the chapter where they essentially became Blur. It's to their immense credit that the album doesn't feel like it's missing anything, since these singles (plus one album track) are dazzling on their own. Of course, the trick is that the record isn't assembled chronologically. Instead, it flows like a set list, complete with the set closer "This Is a Low" followed by a two-song encore that ends with the new song (the good, not great, "Music Is My Radar"), which not only gives it a momentum of its own, but draws attention to the songs themselves. And "dazzling" isn't really hyperbole -- based on these 18 songs, Blur isn't just the best pop band of the '90s, with greater range and depth than their peers, they rank among the best pop bands of all time. The Best of Blur illustrates that, even as it misses some of their best moments -- omissions that prevent it from being the flat-out classic it should be. Even so, it's pretty damn terrific, particularly for the unconverted. [And, for the hardcore, there's not just "Music Is My Radar," there's a special limited-edition double-disc version of The Best of Blur, containing a bonus ten-track, 45-minute live album, recorded at Wembley Arena in December of 1999. Lots of track duplication between this disc and the first, but "Stereotypes" and "M.O.R." are present, and the entire thing is a lot of fun -- they are a terrific live band, after all -- even if it doesn't hold any particular revelations.]

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