Friday, February 16, 2007

"Music Is My Radar" / Blur

For whatever reason, I missed out on this band the first time around (not that it was that long ago -- their first album came out in 1991). I only picked up on Blur recently, because of the Damon Albarn-Ray Davies mutual admiration link. Any Britpopster who so publicly admires Ray Davies is okay by me, and Ray actually seems to like him back. For me, that's a good enough reason to go buy someone's CDs.

I can see the Kinks influence in some Blur songs, like "Park Life" and "Girls & Boys," but "Music Is My Radar" is one of their later tracks, and a new and strange thing altogether. Yet I'm hooked on it, I must say, and maybe for the same reason that I was mesmerized by that Police track I wrote about yesterday. The melody is robotic, one line after another repeating the same drifting series of notes, although one pattern could be called a verse (where each line starts with the word "really") and another pattern I suppose is a chorus ("Aah, don't stop me now," repeated seven times). But it doesn't tell a story, it doesn't convey an emotion, it doesn't state an opinion -- it's simply a vehicle for the layered, percussive music. What matters is not where you are in the song, it's the tugging constant beat, and the dense tangle of synthesizer and guitars and drum clatter laid on top of it. And Damon Albarn's slurred singing, a sort of disaffected nonsense crooning that 's somehow perfect for this foray into electronica.

I always begin by trying to pay attention to the lyrics of this song, but I lose my way pretty quickly. I get distracted by odd details -- such as, why is a Brit like Albarn addressing us as "y'all," and who is this Tony Allen that he claims has got him dancing? (I looked that one up -- Tony Allen is a Nigerian drummer who's considered one of the founders of the jazz-soul-Yoruba hybrid Afrobeat -- who, by the way, plays with Albarn now in his new band The Good, The Bad, and the Queen. Hunh; you learn something new every day.)

Damon Albarn's odd pronunciation of several words only makes the lyrics harder to comprehend. The line "Really topping up my joy y'all" (?) I always hear as "Really Tommy John, yeah," as if these guys would have had any idea who Dodger pitcher Tommy John was. And the thing is, he might as well be saying "Tommy John," because nothing makes sense anyway.

It's like what you get when you sit next to someone on the bus who's grooving to his iPod, singing fragments of lines and vocally imitating the instruments, totally unaware that anybody else is listening (or watching). The good thing with this song is that you don't have to strain to pick up what's leaking out of his earbuds; you can go get lost in that intoxicating groove right along with him. And at least one line in this song comes through loud and clear -- "you really got me dancin', dancin' in my head now baby." Aah, don't stop me now, aah....

Audio clip:

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