Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Damon live at Royale, Boston (June 9, 2014): A Concert Review

As promised, here it is, my review of last night's show...it was fantastic!

http://rnrchemist.blogspot.com/2014/06/damon-albarn-live-at-royale-boston-june.html

Monday, June 9, 2014

TONIGHT: Damon at the Royale, Boston

I posted this on my personal blog and wanted to share it here...I'm going to see Damon tonight in Boston and thought it would be fun to dig up my old reviews from when I saw Blur in 2003 and Gorillaz in 2010, so here they are! I'll post my review of tonight's show later on in the week.

http://rnrchemist.blogspot.com/2014/06/preview-damon-albarn-at-royale-in.html

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I'm Still Here, But I'm Not *HERE*

Hi everyone,

As you've noticed, there hasn't been much activity on this site as of late. The reason for that is mainly due to the fact that life has been very busy for me, but the other huge reason is that there just hasn't been much (or much interesting) in the way of Blur activity. I was not a big fan of their Greatest Hits reunion tour in 2014 and for me a lot of enthusiasm for the band waned. I'm still a massive fan and still a collector, but the spark just wasn't there for me. That doesn't mean that I am abandoning this site or going to stop updating it...I could never do that! But it means that things will be a bit slow here for the foreseeable future (of course that could always change). 

I'm going to try to update more regularly, in the short term regarding Damon's forthcoming solo album and tour that look to take up most of his 2014. I also have been receiving numerous requests for re-uploads of shows due to all of the dead links. Please know that I've been keeping track of what needs to be updated and I really do want to get those back in working order for all of you. I've been so busy that I either don't have the time to do it or it slips my mind and I forget, but I am going to try and make the effort to be better about this.

I still update the Facebook page with news snippets and my Twitter account as well, so please continue to follow me on those.

I still have some ideas of how to make the experience on this site even better but again, free time is in short supply!

I've also been concentrating on my writing and blogging on my personal website much more, as it's allowed me to really flourish creatively and as a writer and has begun to open up a lot of opportunities for me that go beyond Blur. I invite you to please visit that site and follow it because I think there will be quite a lot that readers of this Blur site will enjoy over there, including music book reviews, write-ups, and article on various other topics of interest to me (and, I hope, you!). The website is HERE and I hope to see many of you there as well!

That's all for now, so keep checking in because I *will* update when I can find the time, you just never know when!

Thanks,
Drew

Sunday, January 5, 2014

CROSSPOST: Blur, What the Hell is Going On?

From my personal blog, a post about how I feel about the state of Blur in 2014.

http://rnrchemist.blogspot.com/2014/01/hey-blur-what-hell-is-going-on.html

Friday, October 4, 2013

No News Is No News

I apologize for how quiet it's been on this site...with Blur playing the same setlist night after night, festival after festival, and no gigs since early September, there's really not much to write about. Even with more festivals coming up in the next several weeks and into early 2014, I'm afraid that if I'm to be honest, I have zero interest in what they're doing right now. While I am happy that fans around the world who have never gotten the chance to see them live are getting to do so now, it doesn't interest me beyond that. Add on top of that very busy commitments in my personal and work life, and I don't have a lot of impetus or material to add to this site at the moment.

That does NOT mean I'm going away...if I had the time and resources, I would share more music here, as well as other ideas I have. I'll continue to try and find the time for that, but right now it's got to take a backburner. I will still try to update regularly, though, so please do continue to visit.

On a side note, I've been writing more on my personal webpage, including book reviews, and if you want to read more of my writing, Blur-related and otherwise, please come have a look!

Thanks and please feel free to comment below and discuss this with me. Have you lost interest in Blur at the moment, too?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Thoughts

As sales of my books continue to be strong (even the 1st Edition continues to sell!), it's left me with some thoughts on where to go next.

Finishing the 2nd Edition was a huge undertaking for me, especially as I was doing it all in my spare time. Consider the fact that I am married, have 4 children, a stressful and busy job, and a long commute to and from work each day, and you'll understand when I say that it put quite a lot of stress on me and my family. This is especially due to the fact that I was doing it for free (ie no one was paying me to write this book), and the money I make from sales just about goes to cover my costs for all of the printing, postage, etc.

Another factor was timing. The problem I ran into with the first book in 2009 is that I was constantly getting new material to add to the book, and could have postponed the publication indefinitely in order to include everything. This is what eventually led to the 2nd Edition. For the 2nd book, I set myself a hard and fast deadline (which in and of itself added more stress when I fell behind and had to push myself to eventually meet it!). Of course, right after I published the book, Blur announced their raft of 2013 and 2014 shows. Add to this the fact that I've gotten many recordings of these 2013 shows and you'll see that there *could* be the possibility for yet another book.

However, I think publishing a third book , so soon after the 2nd book, would not be prudent. Remember, there were 3+ years between the 1st and 2nd Editions. Also, I'm not sure how interesting reviews of 2013 (and beyond) shows that have set lists identical to the 2012 shows (included in the 2nd Edition) would be...certainly not enough to entice anyone to buy another book so soon after the last one.

This brings me to my thought...what if I write an addendum to the 2nd book, reviewing these 2013 shows and any other stray shows that didn't make it into the 2nd Edition, and offer it as a PDF? It would be very inexpensive (~$3) and basically an add-on to the 2nd Edition for anyone who has purchased it. That way, it wouldn't necessitate a completely new book, unless people think an "updated 2nd Edition" (would this be the 2nd and 1/2 Edition?) hard copy book would be a better idea?

I'll turn it over to you, my readers and customers...what do you think? Which would you rather have?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

REVIEW: The Life of Blur





A new biography, titled (rather poorly, I might add) "The Life of Blur" by Martin Power, was released this past summer. Since the only authorized band biography, the excellent (if not light on detail) "3862 Days" by Stuart Maconie, was published back in 1999, this book seems to fill the void in detailing what went on in the intervening 14 years, as well as hopefully fleshing out the history of the band beyond the previous book. I was able to obtain a complimentary copy of the book from Omnibus Press, to whom I owe much thanks, in order to read it and review it. So here goes...

The author, Martin Power, has written many band biographies and this Blur one would seem to be the latest in his series. It clearly states on the back jacket that this is a book whose information is culled from interviews, books, magazine articles, and new interviews with some people closest to the band. The latter seem to be mainly with Nigel Hildreth (Damon and Graham's music teacher at Stanway Comprehensive when they were teenagers) and Holdaway and Bergkamp, who owned the Beat Factory Studio in London where Damon worked and where Blur held their initial rehearsals. It's helpful to know upfront that this is *not* an authorized biography, but attempts to be the "definitive biography" of the band, as stated on the back cover.

First off, the cover makes an uneven impression. The font used for the word "blur" is not the official one used for their logo, and thus makes the book look a little chintzy to the trained eye of the diehard fan. Also, while the effect on the cover photo is interesting, with Damon in focus and Graham, Alex, and Dave blurred (I see what they did there!) behind him, the fact that it seems to focus (no pun intended) on Damon at the expense of the other three is, while understandable given his importance to the band, also rather predictable and unfortunate.

On to the contents: the book itself starts with the childhood of Damon and builds on through his meeting with Graham at Stanway before getting into Graham's backstory. From there, it chronicles their teenaged dalliances with bands before Damon moves on to acting school in London and Graham gets to Goldsmiths to study art. His meeting Alex there gets us to Alex's history, and finally Dave's (which is a bit puzzling at the end since he had played with Graham in Colchester years before, but anyway...). The author states at the very beginning the the Blur story cannot be told without particular emphasis on Damon, since he is the creative and driving force behind the band, and while this is certainly true, at times the book does seem like more of a Damon biography, or at the very least, to emphasize his contributions to the band much more heavily than the other 3, although to be fair he does sing the (deserved) praises of Graham and (to a slightly lesser extent, though no less deserved), Alex and Dave.

I'm not going to go through the entire chronology of the book for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being that you should go read the actual book if you're truly interested in it! Also, the main story is fairly well known, if not memorized and recited, by hardcore fans of the band already, and even the casual fan will probably know the main gist of it. Instead, I'll focus on the pros and cons of the book as a whole.

On the positive side, the author is clearly a fan of the band and does them justice with his enthusiasm for the subject.  There are lots of nice photos throughout the book, many in full color, and at 300+ pages, the book does not skimp on their career. Power also does a good job remaining balanced; while it may be a natural (and understandable) inclination to focus the book mainly on Albarn, he does a nice job fleshing out the other 3, especially during the hinterland of 2004-2008.

As for the negatives, my first nitpick would seem to lie not with the author, but whoever proofread the manuscript. There were some silly errors, like referring to an early Damon musical collaborator by the last name "Hubbins" on one page and then "Hibbins" on another. Also, the REPEATED misuse of the word "illicit" instead of "elicit" as in "to *elicit* help."As for the author, there were some obvious errors which would be glaring to any fan of the band, such as calling the song "Advert" by the name "Advertisement," or the song "Ultranol" as "Ultrano." On a more personal level, as a matter of opinion, some of his choices for best and worst songs on the various albums rather beggar belief, such as Ernold Same as one of the best on The Great Escape, or his dismissal of Tender on 13. Again, these are all down to personal preference and will vary from person to person who reads the book, but some are just a bit too obvious to be argued with too much (in my opinion!).

As for a more stylistic critique, it's very obvious that the bulk of the narrative is made up of quotes from interviews and articles. Not only have I read many, if not most of them, before, but many were taken out of context or out of chronological order (ie a quote from an interview in, say, 1997, was used to bolster a passage discussing something from 1992). While the quote in question may fit perfectly well where it was used, the fact that it is in actuality relating to something different was quite grating. Obviously, this would be most noticeable to a more diehard fan, but that's what I and many others are, so to me it was quite noticeable. Also, his non-quoted descriptions for many songs/events/etc were lifted verbatim from other well-known interviews, which again grated on me after a while.

Finally, on a more personal level (and let me state up front this is not sour grapes at all...well, ok, maybe not 100% sour grapes), on the one hand, I was very happy to see several fansites acknowledged (and unhappy to see a few that were, as well) in the back of the book, most notable Veikko's page and the Damon Albarn Unofficial page, run by fans who I "know" via various Blur-related internet locales. Neither my website or my book were acknowledged, which, though slightly disappointing, was not a big deal to me. However, there were several times throughout the book where I read what seemed to be direct quotes or descriptions of things said at Blur concerts over the years that would only be known to either A) someone who had read my book, or B) someone who had heard the tape of the show. As several of the concerts he alluded to have tapes that are either not widely circulated or are obscure enough that the general fan wouldn't have them, it leads me to suspect (but not accuse) that at least some of either my book or site was used as reference. I may be completely off-base here, but in trying to keep an objective mind about it, after re-reading certain passages more and more, I have the feeling that I'm correct. As you all know, all I ask is that if anything from my book or site are used, that I receive the proper credit or acknowledgement. It's common courtesy and something I and countless others do on our pages and in our writings. As I said, this is more a personal matter than something that would be of interest to anyone else reading the book, but I just wanted to put it out there anyway.

In conclusion, the book: not awful by any stretch but not great. It's quite obvious it was cobbled together from press clippings, other books, and interviews (but not with the band or their closest confidantes). Quite a lot of minor errors that are obvious to the dedicated fan, as well as several typos and improper grammar (for example, the constant usage of "illicit" instead of "elicit."). It avoids coming off as a cash-in on Blur's (never-ending) reunion, but only just. On the positive side, the author is excited about the band and reading certain passages does make you want to play the albums right after you put the book down to remind yourself at just how fantastic they were and are.

While it's not the best book on Blur, it's very good and an enjoyable enough read. Older, more knowledgeable fans won't find anything new here, but for a newer fan, it covers most of the bases. Either way, the positives outweigh the negatives.

MY RATING: 6/10

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Coming Soon: My Review of "The Life of Blur"


I just got in the mail today my free copy of the new Blur biography, "The Life of Blur" by Martin Power (thank you, Omnibus Press!). They sent it to me complimentary because I promised to read it and write up a thorough review and post it here on my website as well as on the Blur forums. So, that being said, I intend to start the book tomorrow and as soon as I finish, I'll write up my review and share it with all of you. So stay tuned!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

AUDIO: Dublin, August 1, 2013

Here's the audio...enjoy!


Download it HERE (link updated 8/19/13). 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Blur announce 2014 dates

Blur have announced Australian, New Zealand, and Japan dates for 2014. The Greatest Hits tour shows no signs of slowing down! 

Very happy for all of you in these places who will get to see them! 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blur 21: The Exhibition


This will be in Dublin this Thursday, August 1, from noon to 8pm. If you're in town for the show, check out the exhibit!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Book Review Coming Soon

My complimentary copy of the new Blur biography arrived today (thank you, Omnibus Press)! The agreement was they would send it to me for free and I have to read and review it on my website and on the Blur forums. 

I'm looking forward to reading it and getting started!