Posts from 10th April 2003

10
Apr 03

BLUR — ‘Out Of Time’

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In the Live Forever film, Damon Albarn keeps on doing a horrid thing. He’s clutching some kind of miniature banjo and whenever the interview asks him a difficult question he looks sensitive and pained and hunches over it, picking out indifferent phrases, the artist’s defiance to the intrusive, hostile, world. Music just pours out of him, see — in the latest issue of WORD he’s at it again, picking up an African instrument and strumming a tune, just like that! off the top of his wonderful head! ‘It’s magical’, he says. The interviewer says nothing.

The spin on Blur’s new album is that it’s a selection from this unending torrent of Albarn-music, and a particular selection at that. The really weird stuff has been left out, cos the record company couldn’t take it, but the really commercial stuff has been left out too. (Blur may have moved on from Britpop, but they’ve stuck to some of the tactics: ‘You should hear the songs we haven’t released’ was standard PR practise back then.).

This explains why ‘Out Of Time’ sounds so half-hearted, and points up Blur’s odd, bitter relationship with the charts. They were pop stars, decided they didn’t like it, and publically dumped pop — fair enough. But they keep on releasing singles, and the singles they pick nowadays tend to be sullen dirges, of which this is the latest in a series. It’s like someone who says they’re over an ex lover, then constantly tries to belittle them in public.

‘Out Of Time’ is a lot better than ‘No Distance Left To Run’, the awful nadir of this passive-aggressive pop. But it’s still a slow, introverted drip of a tune gussied up with heap of studio background noise. The production — interesting noises and all — doesn’t work with the song at all, it just sulkily pulls faces at it. As usual with later Blur, you get the strong impression of a band who’d rather be elsewhere. Me too.

“Barbara Song” – Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weil.

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“Barbara Song” – Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weil.

Its my friend Maria’s birthday, and I heard her sing this for the first time a few weeks ago. We were all drinking, but she wasn’t and she left before the evening ended by me letting my tongue fall into the mouth of a boy and a girl in rapid succession. Of all the versions I have heard, I love Marias the best, maybe because the evening was one that should have been scripted by Weil, maybe because she has this crystalline soprano, one that you would think of as pure, if you didn’t notice the flint at its heart, maybe because from Lotte Lenya to Ute Lemper to Marriane Faithful, the expectations of this song have been a Camels and Glenfiddich growl. (I told her she had to start drinking and smoking to sing this sort of thing well, but I don’t believe it and was mocking the lieder queens who expect this.) But mostly because she does this well,with wide wide eyed wonder and tenuous hope, layered over a bedrock of cynicism and fear. Its hard to pull off, because you don’t want to sound like a slut, or an ingenue or a hack who is doing it for sordid reasons.

I am going to buy her a copy of Lenya’s theatre songs before the party, because greedily I want to be in bars when she learns the Alabama song, In cabarets when she learns the September song and in Concert Halls to weep when she sings Mack the Knife.

I hope she listens to it, not as the definitive version but as a way to enter the world of cabaret, but really thats selfish. She will sing what she needs to, and thats alright by me.