Week 30: “Tender” by Blur

It’s always seemed strange to me that Blur and Oasis got lumped into the same category. Perhaps people in Britain never saw it that way, but on this side of the Atlantic they were always mentioned in the same breath, as the leaders of the “New British Invasion”. Maybe it says something about the inability of North American audiences to distinguish between anything that’s not home-grown. Or maybe we North Americans like the idea of a rivalry, and Blur-Oasis looked like a good sequel to Beatles-Stones.

Either way, by the mid-90s, Blur and Oasis had started moving in pretty different directions, and it became more and more difficult to keep mentioning them in the same sentence. While Oasis decided to go the route of drugs, controversy, and songs that all sound the same, Blur opted to develop a more experimental sound. This song comes from the 1999 album “13”, which was largely a melancholy album; many of its songs, including this one, were influenced greatly by lead singer Damon Albarn’s breakup with Justine Frischmann, the lead singer of Elastica.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The AM-radio sound of the opening guitar.

2. The simple boom-kick-boom of the percussion. Along with the lo-fi opening guitar sound, it makes me imagine a white-haired man from Alabama sitting on his front porch, happily creaking back and forth in his rocking chair in time with the music.

3. The London Community Gospel Choir. I find it amazing that Blur, when everyone was waiting for a follow-up to their raucous 2-minute hit “Song 2”, would open their very next album with a 7-minute slow jam featuring a gospel choir and nary a “woo-hoo” to be heard.

Recommended listening activity:

Forsaking e-mail and sending an actual pen-and-paper letter to someone you miss.

Buy it here.