Music Is My Radar- Single (cd1 Cd2)
Food / EMI
By: Eric G.
So the anti-pop stance wasn’t a fad after all. Music Is My Radar continues Blur’s experimental explorations, making songs like “The Universal” and “End Of A Century” seem very long ago indeed. Many critics lambasted Blur’s 13 for being dilettante-ish and insincere, but Blur deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to treading new ground. They clearly are spoiled art-school wankers, but they write damn fine tunes even when they don’t fit the traditional mass conception of what “pop music” is. How many more Great Escapes did we really need, anyway?
Since its self-titled album in 1997 Blur has fought accusations of lazily relying on noise and reference points its fans wouldn't understand as a pose for a new direction, which is all just a load of bollocks. Blur's just been trying to keep things from getting boring. The self-titled Blur and 13 were the sounds of a band trying to find its footing in unknown terrain. Of the British bands in the market back when Blur ruled the charts in the mid-1990's how many remain relevant today? Exactly two. Blur and Radiohead. And do you think it’s because they shoveled the same shit over and over? Of course not. It would be far too easy for Blur to churn out mindless, formulaic pop songs and go through the motions of being pop stars. They’ve seen the top and how hollow and boring it is, so now they’re scrambling to find a better place.
Blur is rich enough not to care about charts and singles, but deep down Damon Albarn can’t help but be competitive. He’s not deliberately going to undermine what he’s built up for the band. Blur’s seemingly anti-commercial path of late isn’t a trick or a smokescreen just to take the piss out of its fans- it’s truly what the band has to do to stay in the game and not become the equivalent of a bloated Elvis or a laughing stock (Oasis anyone?). Sure, they’re still working out the kinks of abandoning a tried and true formula, but Blur is far too talented to remain pigeonholed as merely a pop band.
“Music Is My Radar” is by far the weirdest Blur single to date. The band’s label probably burst into tears when it heard it for the first time, but what a coup it would be if this song were to chart well. Upon first listen, it seems far less accessible than anything off 13 with its laid back, haphazard groove, but it’s very loose and strangely catchy. The melody gets locked in your head after several listens. The UK charts need a kick in the balls anyway, and this song is primed for the cause. Blur sounds like it’s been smoking a lot of dope since 13. "Music Is My Radar" has a jammed-out/improvisational feel, which is usually indicative of much drug-taking. Albarn’s vocals are slurred and difficult to decipher, but there’s just enough melody to pull off another hit. Alex James and Dave Rowntree lay down a dancey, scuttling rhythm for Graham Coxon to squall all over with his guitar, and he rips it up just right.
CD's 1 and 2 of the single have unique b-sides. Alex James calls “Black Book” "the best thing the band’s ever done sonically"- whatever that means. Blur intended it to be the single for the forthcoming 'Best Of…' compilation, but running over eight minutes that probably wouldn’t have been the wisest decision. It’s a meandering ballad that builds into a fierce refrain with Albarn pleading in a slightly whining falsetto: “give you my soul.” Coxon deserves much of the credit for this song's success as his guitar playing is just as emotive and versatile as Albarn's vocal take is.
Both “Headist” and “7 Days” are unreleased tracks from the Modern Life Is Rubbish era that the band performed for Radio 1 in 1992, and both mix Blur’s former penchant for Who-style harmonies with early 90's Manchester psychedelia. They’re vintage Blur- sing-songy choruses and all. The live version of “She’s So High” is ten years old, and it’s quite odd hearing it in the same context as “Music Is My Radar.” It’s hard to believe both are by the same band even, but play "Eight Days A Week" next to "I Am The Walrus" and note the polarity. Blur, thankfully, will never rest on its laurels, as no great band would ever do.