Plus One: The 11 best songs by Blur
Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are our 11 favourite Blur songs, ranked.
As Blur, Graham Coxon, Daman Albarn, Alex James and Dave Rowntree became one of Britpop’s great pioneers. Over eight albums the band have broadened their horizons and conquered alt rock and baggy, tapping into sounds and cultures from Manchester to Marrakesh, Seattle to Hong Kong.
As the band announces a special reunion show at Dublin’s Malahide Castle on 24 June 2023, we rank our top 11 Blur songs of all time.
11. London Loves
An oddball bop with a bass synth muddier than one of Alex James’ Land Rover tyres, this track is an art-rock observation of the pace, anxiety and relentlessness of the capital: “London loves the mystery of a speeding car/ London loves the misery of a speeding heart.” It’s a punchy head nodder that’s often forgotten about.
Another song, another viscious cycle. This time it’s the inevitable churning of the music industry: “Group using the loop/Of another pop group/ Completing the cycle/ Until the teenage maniacs/ Will bring it all back.” Albarn’s trippy vocal effects at the beginning might suggest something heady or celestial, but actually ‘B.L.U.R.E.M.I’ is a sweaty punk-rock ripper. There’s some sort of didgeridoo madness going on in there, too.
9. The Universal
Though there’s a sad sense of defeat at the heart of this not-too-distance sci-fi tale, where the “future has been sold” to some sedating entertainment company (a theme that had long been brewing in Albarn’s writing), the space-walk grace of its strings and its epic climax seems to hold on to some fragment of hope.
8. No Distance Left To Run
A gorgeous grungy ballad soaked in reverb, ‘No Distance Left To Run’ is one of the best breakup songs of the 90s. Widely believed to be about Albarn’s split with Suede and Elastica’s Justine Frischmann, there’s also a lullaby effect to it, as if finally putting painful matters to bed.
As they attempted to veer away from the classic Britpop sound and the excessive attention of the ‘battle’ with Oasis two years earlier, 1997 saw Blur settle into the ranks of the decade’s burgeoning alt rock scene. Though many believe this track to be a nod to The Beatles, and it is reminiscent of the likes of ‘I’m So Tired’, Albarn has confirmed it was actually about heroin.
6. She’s So High
This one is a warm and hazy classic that lets its happy psychedelia trickle in through the edges like a lens flair. Listening back to Leisure’s slow-burning opener is a reminder of how influential Blur have been; three decades on and bands are still putting out tracks like ‘She’s So High’.
5. Ghost Ship
In 2015, 12 years after Think Tank, Blur returned with their eighth album The Magic Whip, which had been recorded between London and Hong Kong. The city was an important source of inspiration when Albarn had been struggling for lyrics, as on one its highlights, ‘Ghost Ship’: “I remember flashbacks lighting up magic waves/ Eight o’clock, Kowloon emptiness, handle it”. With its relaxed, drifting pace and ska dreaminess, the track musters the image of Albarn roaming the bright streets of Hong Kong at night.
4. For Tomorrow
After a rather unsuccessful attempt at breaking the US in the early 90s, it seemed Blur doubled down on their Britishness, and on ‘For Tomorrow’ it’s almost as if Albarn is exaggerating his London accent. In fact, there’s a distinct Bowie influence going on as he looks over the city from the windy Primrose Hill, while those lush strings lead a curious path.
3. Girls & Boys
Inspired by the packs of young and debauched English tourists on package holidays in Magaluf, few songs capture the hedonistic youth of the 90s than ‘Girls & Boys’. The little warbles of acid nod to rave culture while the disco beat keeps things a little more approachable, while the dizzying repetition of the main hook is enough to make you feel boozy and woozy.
2. Song 2
Did we intentionally place ‘Song 2’ as our song 2? Maybe. Is it still a classic? Absolutely. Something of the UK’s answer to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ — in fact, many see the track as a parody — it shares a raw, imperfect and chaotic energy with a riff that even beginners can play along to. Joke or not, it remains a vital piece of UK rock history. Woo hoo!
1. Coffee & TV
One of Blur’s most bittersweet songs, ‘Coffee & TV’ sees Graham Coxon fall into a hermetic and mundane slump as he deals with quitting alcohol. And yet musically the melodies have hardly been sweeter, the tones gentler, the rhythms more reliable. Are we caught in a slump, too? Or are we looking to the hopeful promise to “Start over again?” It’s a predicament that brings us closer to Coxon, and he rewards us with one of his favourite ever guitar solos. Plus, true fans have never looked at milk cartons the same, since.
Tickets for Blur’s Reunion show go on sale at 9am, Friday 25 November. Ticket info is available here.