Blur: The Best Of Review

Raphael Pour-Hashemi has reviewed the Region 2 release of Blur: The Best Of.

An extensive collection of music videos from the best Britpop band of the 1990’s. The DVD however, leaves a lot to be desired and could have been better.

Blur was initially nondescript amongst the many British bands who appeared in the early nineteen-nineties, spouting fashionable psychedelic guitar pop, loud volume and loud attitude. They changed their image by their third and brilliant album Parklife and then emerged as the most popular band in the U.K., taken over from where their chief influences such as the Kinks, the Small Faces, the Jam, Madness, Smiths and the Blockheads left off. The band headed this new movement, touted as Britpop, and became darlings of the chart for almost five years, even beating Oasis in many press/chart battles, although in hindsight the bands were headed in different directions anyhow. With eccentric lead singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, Bass player Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree, the Essex boys will now be remembered as one of the chief groups to restore musical pride back to Britain, and they are now rumoured to be working with Fatboy Slim on their next album. However, both Coxon and Albarn are venturing off into solo territory (Albarn’s pet project Gorillaz is now outselling Blur, and he is now reinventing himself as a film score composer; his work can be heard on Ravenous).

This DVD contains all of Blur’s music videos barring their most recent single Music Is My Radar, and there are twenty two in total, and here is a very brief rundown.

She’s So High
Probably the simplest of Blur’s classic earlier songs, She’s So High is the usual cheap music video, with shots of the band miming in front of camera, a matte black backdrop is provided with some flashy illuminous neon pieces of decoration. The video has the early-nineties dated feel to it, but is by no means an amateur effort.
Song: 6/10 Video: 5/10

There’s No Other Way
A funny video, if merely due to the fact that it contains lead singer Damon Albarn in a bowl haircut. The song has portions that demonstrate the great potential the band had that they would later realise on albums such as Parklife and Blur, and the video is set around the dinner table with the band performing whilst eating.
Song: 6/10 Video: 6/10

The worst effort, both in song and video, as the song is uninspired and contains few melodic hooks, whilst the video has that blatant, over-used effect of ‘busy-roads-sped-up’, with the foursome standing outside famous London streets singing the track, intercut with black and white shots of them sitting in a studio. It might have looked innovative then, but the whole look of the video has been flogged to death now.
Song: 5/10 Video: 3/10

An Ok song that sounds like Suede-on-speed, with a better video that features the band merely performing in front of a sixties wallpaper backdrop. Many varieties of quick-cut editing are employed, and some split-second text appears infrequently on screen.
Song: 5/10 Video: 5/10

For Tomorrow
The video has a hazy American-filmed look to it, even though it is clearly filmed in Trafalgar Square. Shot in black and white, For Tomorrow is a hint that perhaps the Essex boys are starting to become slightly more inspired with their visuals. The song isn’t bad, but still lacks that Blur trademark. Shown in non-anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen.
Song: 5/10 Video: 7/10

Chemical World
A nice looking and colourful video, with various settings around the countryside, although the feel of the video is actually fairly uninspired, both in action and pacing. The song suggests that Blur are nearly there, but not quite yet.
Song: 6/10 Video: 6/10

Sunday Sunday
Finally, a video that demonstrates Blur’s wit and clever writing, with a sharp, primary-colour driven video showing the boys living in a caravan in urban London.
Song: 6/10 Video: 6/10

Girls And Boys
This is it! Chapter 8! This is where the action explodes, and the tremendously catchy Girls And Boys is backed with a cheap, smutty looking collage of club 18-30 holidays with the boys prancing around singing in the foreground. A great, legendary nineties song, with a memorable video.
Song: 8/10 Video: 8/10

Blur’s best video, and the most famous, complete with classic Phil Daniels monologues and Albarn’s great/funny miming in front of camera. The colours are vibrant, and the world created on camera is pure Blur at their best. The album Parklife should be a feature of everyone’s collection.
Song: 8/10 Video: 10/10

To The End
The most self-assured and mature of Blur’s song, To The End is a rare, poignant gem that is extremely moving and brilliantly produced. The black-and-white video that accompanies pays much to the surrealistic European bourgeois existence, but is inspired if bizarre.
Song: 10/10 Video: 8/10

End Of The Century
Not the single version, but a live performance recorded at the ‘Ally Pally’, with multi-angled edit of Albarn crowd-diving, the song is one of the pinnacles of the Parklife album, and is performed well live, even if the sound is slightly tinny.
Song: 8/10 Video: 7/10

Country House
This is good evidence of a band being too successful and letting their visual self-indulgences cloud their music videos. The video is essentially the band goofing around, with the help of Keith Allen, who just seems to be everywhere at the moment, and George Dawes from Shooting Stars. The song is very catchy, and will be remembered mostly for beating Oasis’ Roll With It to Number One in the famous chart battle.
Song: 7/10 Video: 5/10

The Universal
A very futuristic and obvious homage to A Clockwork Orange, with the band donned in droog-like gear performing the song in the milk-bar-esque setting borrowed from the film. An excellent video, and the song is world-class too, being the best cut from the Great Escape album. Presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen.
Song: 9/10 Video: 10/10

The video is filmed in front of an audience at one of Blur’s gigs and is edited to make it appear as a music video. The single version, as opposed to the live performance, is what can be heard. The funny ideology of promoting ‘swinging’ in the song makes it highly memorable, although the video is decidedly unmemorable. Presented in 1.66:1 non-anamorphic widescreen.
Song: 6/10 Video: 4/10

Charmless Man
A catchy number packed full with Blur trademarks, coupled with a good video of the band performing the band as they follow the ‘charmless man’ around in his day-to-day routine. Presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen.
Song: 7/10 Video: 7/10

The band’s second number one single, and another video variation on the foursome performing the song in front of camera to a backdrop of sixties/seventies décor. An excellent song, even if the video could have been slightly more animated.
Song: 9/10 Video: 6/10

Song 2
Simple to the extreme, Song 2 is a sonic assault to the senses that is ruthless in its attack. The video, of the boys performing in front of camera whilst being literally blown away by the heavy distortion on the amplifiers is the most effective pairing of video and song in the last ten years. Truly amazing, and under two minutes in length.
Song: 10/10 Video: 10/10

On Your Own
An average song, more fitting to the atrocity that is E-17 as opposed to Blur, and this is reflected in both the song and the video, with Albarn doing a very good Brian Harvey impression.
Song: 5/10 Video: 5/10

A humourous video, complete with The Professionals-style intro, that shows a group of armed robbers doing thrilling stunts in order to avoid the long arm of the law. The song was the lowest charting of the songs off the self-titled Blur album, but is better than On Your Own. Presented in non-anamorphic 2:1 widescreen.
Song: 6/10 Video: 7/10

The front-end single off the 13 album produced by William Orbit, and a very different direction for Blur that seems headed in the Spiritualised direction. Even so, the song works fine, and the black-and-white video is essentially a live performance, complete with gospel backing choir, although you’d be hard pressed to tell the differences between the single version and this live version. Presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen.
Song: 7/10 Video: 7/10

Coffee & TV
An excellent video, depicting the exploits of a living carton of milk and the adventures it gets up to. The video is edited expertly so that it flows with the song, even if the band appears to be nowhere to be seen for the first half of the video. Possibly the best track off the 13 album. Presented in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen.
Song: 9/10 Video: 9/10

No Distance Left To Run
An interesting change of direction for a music video, with the band talking to camera at the beginning explaining that they are to be filmed whilst asleep, and that will form the video. The song is very dreamy, and fits well with the ‘lullaby’ image of the video. The song has even found Blur’s way onto various chill-out compilations as a result. Presented in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen.
Song: 8/10 Video: 8/10

Presented in 4:3 fullscreen, which is unfortunate given that at least half of the videos are widescreen, the picture is very clear in most places with occasional artefacting and obvious pixelation occurring. It could have been much, much better, but is still very acceptable.

Most of the videos appear to have taken the audio tracks directly from the CD masters, and are thus Dolby 2.0. The sound is very audible and exhibits good clarity.

Unfortunately, the only extra is a few items of textual information about each track. Lyrics are sadly lacking (surely one of the plus points of music videos on DVD?), and Blur’s most recent single Music Is My Radar is noticeable by its absence, even if it features as the menu music and is included on the simultaneous released CD. The menu is also strange to navigate and could have been designed better. Also, Parklife and To The End are stated on the case as being in the wrong positions on the running order.

A fan of Blur will no doubt rush to buy this, and it is mostly good value, even if the producers of the DVD have put little thought into making this average product great. The picture quality could be improved upon, and the lack of lyrics is a huge minus. However, as a testament to one of the best Britpop/Indie bands of the nineties, the Best Of Blur stands as a good one.

Note: This DVD is compatible for Regions 2,3,4,5,6.

Raphael Pour-Hashemi

Updated: Nov 04, 2001

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