Cocky Cockney Damon Albarn spent most of his interview time a couple of years ago telling everyone how great his band Blur was. Now, after all that musty old Scene That Celebrates Itself dust has finally settled, time has proved him correct.
The touchstones on Blur's surprisingly sophisticated sophomore set are obvious-Bowie, Ronson, Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-but they're marbled together in a big wash of pop culture that sounds sort of like Suede trapped in the studio with H.R. Pufnstuf at the controls. The album is goofy, sometimes awkwardly so, like when Albarn chirps a nonsensical la-la-la chorus on "For Tomorrow," or when the production on "Sunday Sunday" goes completely George Martin AWOL, as if the only thing missing from the mix was a rhinoceros sneeze sample.
But it's Albarn's self-assurance that pays off. When he sings, words like "Star Shaped" suddenly become "Staw Shoiped," and he even sneers like Johnny Rotten at one point ("Advert"). But he has this vision for Blur, see, a kind of crossroads where `70s optimism intersects with early `80s new wave snottiness beneath gummy psychedelic guitar trees.
Okay, so nobody said it'd be pretty, but this group has found a niche, an approach that stays focused for 17 hook-happy numbers and never once appears forced. The last thing anybody probably expected was for bratty Blur to grow into its own clown-sized shoes. But Albarn can kick back and indulge himself in a hearty last laugh. He's earned it.