What's the point of a best-of, anyway? In Blur's case any self-respecting fan already owns the band's entire catalog, and the casual fans have either downloaded "Song 2" off Napster or bought the latest volume of Jock Jams. The answer, of course, is money. Take some old tunes, add a bonus track, throw in some new cover art, and the record company gets a low-cost CD with a phat profit margin. Whether it's to milk more mileage from a dead singer (Sublime), to screw a band for jumping to another label (Red Hot Chili Peppers), or to fill the gap between new releases, the best-of has always been a record label's best bet. To merit one a band doesn't even have to be good in the first place. What the hell is on Best of White Lion, anyway?
Fortunately Blur has no shortage of quality material from which to select. The Best Of is a schizophrenic history of the darlings of Britpop, leading off just like 1997's self-titled album with "Beetlebum" and "Song 2" before jumping way back to 1991's Leisure with "There's No Other Way." The disc skips around from there, hitting the highlights from the British slice-of-life trilogy (1993's Modern Life Is Rubbish, 1994's Parklife, and 1995's The Great Escape), as well as 1999's 13. The disc ends with an extended version of "For Tomorrow," and the ubiquitous bonus track "Music Is My Radar," which -- with a thumping bass line and heavily affected vocals -- is another left turn in the evolution of the band. The Best Of has its own share of left turns: Because Blur has undergone a couple stylistic reinventions over the years, the disc has a few awkward moments. The biggest: going from the soulful "Tender" to the disco-flavored "Girls and Boys," a non sequitur that grinds the transmission.
In addition to the 18 studio tracks, a live second disc features ten songs from a 1999 show at Wembley Arena, complete with sing-alongs. "Stereotypes" and "M.O.R" are the only tunes on the set list not included on The Best Of. So is it worth the 15 bucks for one new song and a live album? Probably not. A better use of the money would be to go out and find a used copy of Modern Life Is Rubbish and spend the difference on the cover charge at a Bluh show. Legendary Crystal Chandelier's James Henderson, Baboon's Mark Hughes, and Chomsky's Glen Reynolds and Matt Kellum have assembled the first known Blur cover band. Bluh (spelled like the limeys pronounce Blur) faithfully re-creates Blur's trademark sound -- especially on favorites such as "Oily Water" and "Charmless Man." And unlike Blur when it comes to the good ol' U.S. of A., Bluh isn't afraid to sound British.
Blur (Virgin Records)
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