The first album I took out its shrink-wrap and put the needle to was '13' from 1999. Its always been my favourite of theirs. Feelings all tied in with time and circumstances and the leanings of my melancholic soul.
Its been a while since I listened to it and I was struck by how thrilling and discombobulated the record makes me feel. Its a brave sort that opens an album with a sound as scratchy and low-fi as 'Tender' - vocals aching and melody childlike. I remember they opened their Reading 1999 set with it and it was a long way from that muted response to the cathartic chorus at Glastonbury ten years later.
'Bugman's crunchy guitars, the pop perfection of Coffee & TV, easily Graham's finest moment with the band, his detached lyric and two tone guitar. '1992' is a mellow gem of loss, BLUREMI a sneaky dig at the labels identikit Britpop indie bands. 'Trailerpark' is a loose jam with trip hop aspirations and a nonsense but funny lyric "I lost my girl to the Rolling Stones' Damon mumbles. the album's hidden treasure is 'Trimm Trabb' - great riff (stolen from Syd Barrett's 'Wined & Dined') and brilliant delivery from Damon.
In a way the album is sprawling and all over the place as I believe the band were at this point. This would be Coxon's last album with the band aside from one track on 'Think Tank'. Although this is Coxon's album sonically - woozy, stumbling and confused at the fag end of the 20th century - lyrically its all Damon and his broken heart. The aforementioned '1992' and the unbearably claustrophobic 'No Distance Left To Run' are the key pointer to his breakup with Elastica girl but its a vibe that spreads across the whole album.
I also found myself thinking how adventurous the album sounds and how much of it sounds like a template for Radiohead's 'Kid A'. The instrumental codas throughout, coming through like a daydream. the longer jammier material brings in dance beats and more avant-garde sounds. This is a far stranger album than many give it credit for, a step on from the lo-fi of 'Blur' to darker pastures.
As I said, sprawling and lethargic but that why I like it - it was the end of the century and Blur never sounded less sure or more inspired to do what they hell they liked. Shame they couldn't keep it all together