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.