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.


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!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

AUDIO: Live at Picnic Afisha, Russia July 13, 2013

Here is the show from last night available for download. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

UPDATED Tour Schedule for 2013

Here's the most up-to-date tour schedule for the remainder of 2013:

3 Jul Gdynia, Poland
5 Jul Werchter, Belgium
7 Jul Belfort, France
13 Jul Moscow, Russia
27 Jul Nyon, Switzerland
28 Jul Milan, Italy
29 Jul Rome, Italy
1 Aug Dublin, Ireland
7 Aug Oslo, Norway
9 Aug Budapest, Hungary
6 Sep Berlin, Germany
29 Oct Lima, Peru
2 Nov Buenos Aires, Argentina
4 Nov Montevideo, Uruguay
7 Nov Santiago, Chile
9 Nov Sao Paulo, Brazil

Monday, June 24, 2013

AUDIO: Live at Provinnsirock Festival, Finland June 14, 2013

Here's an upgraded audio rip of the video I posted earlier this week. Thanks to Ville for preparing and sharing this!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

VIDEO: Blur live at Provinnsirock Festival, Finland June 14, 2013

I found a copy of an audience-shot video of ~60% of the show...I've uploaded it for you all, so go HERE to download it.

While the press said that Blur were the highlight of the festival and they sound in fine form, it's jarring how thin the crowd are in the video! It's especially crazy when contrasted to the mad crowd when they played the same festival in 1999.

In any event, enjoy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

New Album from Hong Kong?

The big news from this week is that onstage in Hong Kong, Damon told the crowd that since their Japanese and Tapei gigs got cancelled, they may spend the free week recording a new album. See the video in this article for the actual quote:

Or if you just want to see the video:

What do you think? Are you getting your hopes up, or being a bit cynical and skeptical (like me) that this is just Damon saying another thing that ends up not happening? What do you think? Either way, it's made for some interesting debate!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

AUDIO: Blur live at Coachella Festival, Indio, CA April 12, 2013

Here's Blur's headlining set from last night's Coachella Festival, freshly recorded. A rather subdued set to an awful crowd, but the guys give it their best. Link below, let me know what you think or if there are any problems with the download. (the link will be only be active for 2 weeks so grab it ASAP!).

Download link HERE


Monday, April 1, 2013

But Because it *is* April Fool's Day...

Tokyo Rocks Festival Cancelled

The Tokyo Rocks Festival in Japan that Blur was due to appear at in May has been cancelled...

This is unfortunate for the band's Japanese fans, who are known as being amongst the most rabid and fanatical of all of their fans, especially judging from multiple bootleg recordings and videos of shows. They also seem to bring the best and wildest side of Blur out, so this is really too bad.

It's still unclear why this was cancelled...what do you think? Any ideas or info why?

(And NO, this is not an April Fool's post! I posted this same news item on my Facebook and Twitter pages yesterday...this is legit!)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Set List From Last Night

The first gig of 2013 was last night, and as expected (but still disappointing), it was the same set as last year (apart from bringing There's No Other Way back and dropping The Puritan)

  1. Encore:
    How do you feel about this? Pleased? Disappointed?

Friday, March 15, 2013

It Starts Today!

The first Blur concert of the year kicks off today in Mexico at El Plaza Condesa, followed by the first festival of the year tomorrow (also in Mexico).

Keep checking here for up-to-the-date info: set lists, photos, etc, and feel free to share your own info!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

More blur dates!

More dates have been announced, including these 2…

Saturday, January 26, 2013

So Far, Unanimous Praise for Black Book (2nd Edition)!

I've been truly humbled and flattered by the response to my newest book, Black Book: The Live History of Blur (2nd Edition). I'd like to share the feedback I've gotten, not only as a (small) feather in my cap (I can't resist!), but also to hopefully persuade anyone sitting on the fence that this book is worth getting if you're a Blur fan, BritPop fan, music fan, or whatever.

Some of the reviews for the book since it's release in December 2012:

"Got it tonight. Absolutely brilliant! I've been listening to the CDs and reading about the concerts - using the book like a mega set of liner notes. There are some priceless rareties here for sure, but the selections made are better because the author truly knows what he's talking talking about. I've got a stack of live CDs from hunting around Record fairs in the 90s, and this book is going to give them a new lease of life! Thank you"

"Got mine on Saturday. A joy to read. A real labour of love isn't it? It's great that there is a book like this out there. Well done"

"Got it in the mail today. Read a few entries and I'm really impressed. The concert reviews are super in-depth. Thanks for your hard work!"

"Just got mine from Amazon UK, and it's coming with me on a business trip next week so I'll have plenty time to get into it on the flight! It looks great Drew!"

"I loved it! Real page-turner. Great insight to B-Roads was a bonus."

"Mine arrived yesterday and it's awesome!"

"Mine arrived this morning, had a quick glance and it looks very purty you should be very proud"

"Got mine this morning, just about to go through it. Thanks so much, looks great!"

"I am completely stunned by the amount of information in this book and the scene-by-scene review of B-Roads is wonderful. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the great mystery! This book is an ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE for hardcore Blur fans. Such a great read and research tool. Thank you so much for your effort, it's greatly appreciated!"   

And so far, all 5-Star reviews on Amazon: reviews reviews

So if you've got the book, I'd love to hear your feedback, good or bad (and if it's good, I'd appreciate it if you reviewed it on Amazon, your website, anywhere...and share the link, please!).

And if you don't have the book yet, isn't this enough to make you want to go out and get it? :-) 


Friday, January 18, 2013

The Dust Has Settled and Black Book 2 is Available Worldwide

The book is available worldwide on Amazon websites and all of the pre-order packages were shipped out a week or so ago and are beginning to arrive. So far the response to the book has been 100% positive and I hope it continues to be and that everyone is enjoying it!

Now to take a break from writing and very soon get back to maintaining this page on a regular basis!