WorldBeat on CNN: 04/13/99
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WorldBeat on CNN: 04/13/99

By: Steve Wright

CNN WorldBeat Correspondent

LONDON (CNN) -- England's Blur, the band that pioneered the loud-guitar, Brit-pop movement of the mid-'90s, is back with a new sound and a new album entitled "13." And it seems Blur's members have consciously rejected their old style for a new musical mix that includes gospel and acoustic influences.

The first single released from "13" is "Tender," an eight-minute hymn to the importance of love, backed by a full gospel choir. Band members say "Tender" and the other tracks on "13" are infused with personal and emotional influences -- many of them relating to the breakup of singer Damon Albarn's relationship with Elastica's Justine Frischmann.

The most striking aspect of "13" may be its wide variety of sounds and influences -- from Beatles-type riffs to the gospel choir, to the weird space-rock sound of "Battle," and even an acoustic ballad, "Mellow Song."

Those who've followed the band since its Brit-pop hit single "Country House," know that Blur began to reinvent it's sound a few years ago. The 1997 release, "Album," took band members in a new musical direction and won them recognition in the United States with "Song 2."

"Song 2" became a sort of anthem in the U.S., played to full stadiums during ice hockey games. At one point the U.S. Army tried to buy the rights to the song--an offer Blur members turned down.

Looking back on the band's success in the mid-'90s, its members recall a heady time of drinks, parties and rock 'n' roll, as well as official recognition from the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"It seemed like an average day at the time, to go and meet Tony Blair and talk about what the youth of the country wanted. It didn't occur to me at the time ... you realized you probably won't have a day like that again."

Blur was originally called Seymour when the group formed in London in 1989 with vocalist/keyboardist Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, and bassist Alex James. Drummer Dave Rowntree joined the band shortly afterward.

WorldBeat's Review of 13

Blur (Food/EMI/Virgin) Blur ends a phenomenally successful decade as one of the leading lights of British rock/pop with the band's sixth outing, "13." A mixed-bag affair, the album ranges from the plaintive hymn-like first hit, "Tender," through the organized noise of "Bugman" to the distorted "Trailerpark." The entire package is overseen by whiz producer William Orbit and underpinned by frontman Damon Albarn's still-biting lyrical charm.

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