90 songs of my Nineties youth : Blur – Parklife

For a primer on what the (admittedly fairly self-explanatory) series 90 songs of my Nineties Youth is all about see here. This week, Blur with Parklife

The Song

Parklife was a long way from being Blur’s first hit, the likes of There’s No Other Way, Chemical World and Girls and Boys had followed previously. Parklife though seemed to mark the moment they became massive and established themselves as one of Britpop’s big two bands.

Blur had long peddled in a very English form of character driven, storytelling pop, following in the footsteps of the likes of The Kinks, The Jam, even Madness. Parklife was very much in that vein, consisting of little more than a spectacularly simple ,catchy riff and a spectacularly simple, catchy chorus, surrounding actor Phil Daniels narrating a rambling tale of pigeons, dustmen and gut-lords.

Does it still sound good today?

Kind of. It always had the whiff of a novelty song about it, and that has grown stronger over time. I still like it, but I can also see why someone might find it massively annoying. It’s certainly far from Blur’s best song, even from the Parklife album.

What Happened Next?

Blur became embroiled in an increasingly tedious, part manufactured, part heartfelt rivalry which led to Country House, Blur’s first single from the following album The Great Escape, becoming their biggest seller despite being possibly their worst single (it beat off Oasis’s Roll With It, also terrible). The Great Escape was well regarded at the time, but not so much now, and led to various radical changes of direction from Blur. Fifth album Blur embraced the sound of US bands like Pavement. 13 took on gospel and electronic influences. Think Tank, by which time guitarist Graham Coxon had left the band, featured more electronica and world music.

Following Think Tank, the band went on indefinite hiatus, freeing the members up for other projects. Damon Albarn has pursued various musical projects, including the massively successful Gorillaz, as well as writing operas and musicals. Graham Coxon has put out 8 solo albums. Alex James wrote an autobiography and made cheese. Dave Rowntree retrained as a solicitor and stood as a political candidate. However the band had never truly split and played occasional live shows from 2009 onwards as well as a couple of new songs (including the wonderful Under The Westway) in 2012, before finally getting round to releasing a new, pretty decent, album, Magic Whip in 2015. I think Blur will be remembered well by musical history, and they’re certainly one of the only Britpop bands still putting out good music in the 2010s.

 

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