BLUR – “Music Is My Radar”

You can take the boys out of the art-school, but you can’t take the art-school out of the boys. Now often that isn’t a bad thing, but Blur let’s not forget had a gift as big as Gibraltar for writing pop songs. Erratically and inoften, yes: even so when they were on form I could hate them for being them, but hating the tunes was a notch or two harder. Conversely, when they over-stretched or over-promised, Blur were intolerable. The winking, wincemaking, Sun-Ra-quoting avant-porridge of 13 showed them up as nasty, shallow posers, in love with the idea of ‘experimenting’ but without the discipline or imagination to produce anything other than half-baked, insulting suet.

Luckily for them, they’ve always had an inkling of how to marry their flair for pastiche with a Young British Artist’s nous for tasty Adland concepts, and so they’ve barely put a foot wrong critically. “Music Is My Radar”, one of the most unequivocally wretched things I’ve heard this year, has been called little worse than ‘baffling’: David Cavanagh in Mojo crows about how bands of Blur’s artistic stature see singles as a pathetic irrelevance, and treat them with the contempt they deserve.

I think this is a stupid position, if true: while excellent albums will always be released, the most interesting and exciting pop music has tended to come out on single. You’d have to be a lot more hardline than me, though, to claim an anti-singles bent renders a band irrelevant, rather than suspect. But after all Blur aren’t eschewing the single: they recorded “Music Is My Radar” to introduce and promote their Greatest Hits package, but by releasing it on its own they are expecting people to go out and buy it for itself, and so it is on those terms we must take it. And on those terms it is complete shit.

You can give three members of the band some kind of benefit of the doubt: Coxon, Rowntree and James patch together a halfway groove, mildly reminiscent of a messier take on Talking Heads. It’s dull, but not hopeless: alas for listeners, Damon Albarn shows his distaste at having to cut short his Malian music studies by recording the shoddiest vocal you’ll hear this year, a dumb, spoiled performance-art squawk which could irritate mountains. “You really got me dancing” he blurts at the end: it sounds like a fart in the face of dancing itself, of pop, of fun, of the listeners (fuck them, after all, if they’re silly enough to buy a Hits CD). A more miserable four minutes you could hardly imagine.