13 (Blur album)

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13
Studio album by Blur
Released 22 March 1999
Recorded June–October 1998; Studio Sýrland, Reykjavík; Studio 13, Mayfair Studios, Sarm West, London
Genre Alternative rock, experimental rock, electronica, indie rock
Length 66:50
Language English
Label Food
Parlophone
Producer William Orbit, Blur
Blur chronology
Bustin' + Dronin'
(1998)
13
(1999)
The 10 Year Limited Edition Anniversary Box Set
(1999)
Singles from 13
  1. "Tender"
    Released: 22 February 1999
  2. "Coffee & TV"
    Released: 28 June 1999
  3. "No Distance Left to Run"
    Released: 15 November 1999

13 is the sixth studio album by English band Blur, released in late March 1999. Jettisoning the Britpop sound of Blur's early career as well as the lo-fi, indie rock and alternative rock of previous album, Blur (1997), 13 contains elements of experimental, psychedelic and electronic music.

Recording took place from June to October 1998 in London and Reykjavík. The album marks a departure of the band's longtime producer, Stephen Street, with his role being filled by William Orbit. Relationships between the band members were reported to be strained, with members frequently missing from the sessions. Lyrically, the album is significantly darker and more innovative than Blur's previous efforts, being heavily inspired by Damon Albarn's breakup with long-term girlfriend, Justine Frischmann, whose relationship had become increasingly strained over the years.

13 was released on late March 1999 and entered the UK Albums Chart at number one, making it Blur's fourth consecutive studio album to reach the top spot. The album was later certified Platinum. 13 also reached number one in Norway and charted within the top 20 in many other countries, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Japan. The album produced three singles, which charted at number 2, number 11 and number 14 respectively on the UK Singles Chart. 13 was well-received critically, with a score of 79 on Metacritic, which equates to a tag of "Generally favorable reviews". 13 received a nomination for Best Album at the 2000 NME Awards. It was also nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Background[edit]

Much of Albarn's lyrics were inspired by his split with Justine Frischmann (pictured)

Blur's previous studio album, Blur (1997) had seen the band move away from the Britpop movement and take on a more Indie rock influenced direction, primarily under the suggestion of guitarist Graham Coxon. The press and the industry had feared that the change in style would not be taken well with the public, and therefore the album would be commercially unsuccessful as a result. Despite these concerns, Blur had become an unexpected success, particularly in America, where the album had been certified Gold. However, the band still wanted to innovate, so they decided to embrace a different sound. Bassist, Alex James stated: "I think you just have to keep changing. That sort of thinking was, sort of, key."[1]

The band's leader Damon Albarn had been in a long term relationship with Justine Frischmann, of the Britpop band Elastica. Their relationship was highly publicised, the couple being described by John Harris as "proto-Posh and Becks for the indie-rock constituency."[2] However their relationship became strained over time, stated reasons including Albarn's desire to have children as well as Frischmann's continued friendship with Brett Anderson of Suede who had shared a rivalry with Albarn.[3] Albarn's lyrics and attitude had reflected this in the eyes of the other band members, with Coxon pointing out, "I didn't have much of a clue that things were going wrong between Damon and Justine but it was probably easy to guess."[1] After one last holiday together in Bali in late 1997 in an attempt to rekindle their relationship, the couple finally split.[3][4] Commenting in later years, Albarn stated: "That relationship completely crashed. I mean, it seemed like a spectacularly sad end."[1]

After his breakup, Albarn started sharing a flat with artist Jamie Hewlett whom he had met through Coxon.[5][6] Around this time, Albarn, had started to broaden his musical output. Whilst he was working on 13, there were various reports that him and Hewlett were working on a secret project, which turned out to be Gorillaz, a virtual band.[7] Albarn also started working on film soundtracks: including Ravenous, Ordinary Decent Criminal and 101 Reykjavík.[8][9]

Recording[edit]

13 is Blur's first album without longtime producer Stephen Street. Instead the band 'unanimously' decided that they wanted electronic music artist, William Orbit to produce the album after being impressed by his remix of their track, Movin' On, included on the remix compilation, Bustin' + Dronin'.[5][10] Albarn commented that "it was such a personal thing going on, we needed to have someone who didn't really know us". He also described Orbit as being "like a psychiatrist". When asked if his replacement had come as a shock, Street stated "I just think they wanted to stretch out a bit more and having made five albums with me, the best way to do that was to work with someone different who would approach the project in a different way. I understand that perfectly and certainly wasn't offended. I did five albums with the band and I must admit I thought each one would be the last because they were bound to want to try something new."[10] Albarn described the decision to not work with Street as "difficult", going on to say "he'll be forever part of what we are, and ironically, he gave us the tools we needed to go it alone."[11]

Tension in the studio ran high during the recording sessions. In Orbit's words, "There was a battle between Damon's more experimental direction, and Graham's punk one, and Graham prevailed. If that tension had been growing on previous LPs, it came to a head here."[12] "Things were starting to fall apart between the four of us," Blur's drummer, Dave Rowntree, later revealed. "It was quite a sad process making it. People were not turning up to the sessions, or turning up drunk, being abusive and storming off."[1] Coxon also claimed "I was really out there around 13, which made for some pretty great noise but I was probably a bit of a crap to be around."[1]

"1992" had originally been recorded as a demo in 1992 and was lost until Damon found it again on a tape six years later. "Mellow Song" was demoed as a jam session known as "Mellow Jam" and was later included as the b-side of "Tender".

Musical style and composition[edit]

13 sees the band moving further away from their Britpop past into more cerebral and denser musical territory. Some of the songs, however, are evocative of songs from their previous efforts, such as "Bugman", "Coffee & TV", "1992" and the instrumental closer "Optigan 1", which was created using an Optigan optical organ. The album is in the style of a loose concept album, much like other Blur albums, in this case about life and relationships. Much of the album was inspired by Damon Albarn's breakup with Elastica singer Justine Frischmann. Two of the singles, "Tender" and "No Distance Left to Run", describe Albarn's love for Frischmann and his struggle to move on. The album is named after the band's recording studio as well as the number of tracks on the album (bar the hidden tracks).

The album features several short hidden tracks at the end of songs, stretching the playing time out; examples of this are "Coffee & TV", "B.L.U.R.E.M.I.", "Battle" and "Caramel", the latter of which features two hidden tracks.

Artwork[edit]

The cover is a portion of an oil painting by Graham Coxon called Apprentice. The album's singles also have cover art by Coxon. The numbers 1 and 3 have been painted so they also form the letter 'B' - presumably for 'Blur'. This was not present on the original Apprentice, nor was the "shine" on the figure's head, which appears on 13. These additions were made long after the original Apprentice, which was painted in 1996. The band's logo does not appear on the album in any form, aside from a sticker on the CD packaging. The logo is also absent from the single covers.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (79/100) [13]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars [14]
Austin Chronicle 1.5/5 stars [15]
E! Online C+ [13]
Entertainment Weekly B+ [16]
NME (6/10) [17]
PopMatters 9/10 stars [18]
Pitchfork Media (9.5/10) [19]
Robert Christgau (3-star Honorable Mention) [20]
Q 4/5 stars [13]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars [21]

The album was seen by many as a highly experimental work, and the critical response was generally positive. Of the reviews collected from notable publications by popular review aggregator website Metacritic, the album holds an overall approval rating of 79%.[13] The music video for the hit single "Coffee & TV" cemented Blur's reputation as a cult band in the U.S. with its protagonist Milky. The video gained heavy airplay on many modern rock channels in America.

Accolades[edit]

13 was nominated in the Album Of The Year category at the 2000 NME Awards, losing to The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips.[22][23][24] 13 was also nominated for the 1999 Mercury Prize, being Blur's second album to receive a nomination. The award was eventually given to Talvin Singh for Ok.[25][26]

13 has received accolades from music critics, which ranks it among the greatest albums of the 90s, according to Acclaimed Music. Some of these can be found below.[27][28]

Many publications have sinced hailed the album as a "lost classic".[citation needed]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Village Voice US Albums of the Year 1999 45
Pitchfork Media US Albums of the Year 1999 10
Top Favorites Records of the 90s 1999 82
Metal Hammer UK The 200 Greatest Albums of the 90s 2006 *
Melody Maker UK Albums of the Year 1999 2
NME UK Albums of the Year 1999 19
Q UK Albums of the Year 1999 *
250 Best Albums Q's Lifetime (1986–2011) 2011 98
Mojo UK Albums of the Year 1999 22
Select UK Albums of the Year 1999 11
Rolling Stone Germany Albums of the Year 1999 3
Eye Weekly Canada Albums of the Year 1999 19

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics by Albarn (except for track 3 by Coxon, and track 1 by Albarn / Coxon). All music by Albarn / Coxon / James / Rowntree.

  1. "Tender" – 7:40
  2. "Bugman" – 4:47
  3. "Coffee & TV" – 5:58
  4. "Swamp Song" – 4:36
  5. "1992" – 5:29
  6. "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." – 2:52
  7. "Battle" – 7:43
  8. "Mellow Song" – 3:56
  9. "Trailerpark" – 4:26
  10. "Caramel" – 7:38
  11. "Trimm Trabb" – 5:37
  12. "No Distance Left to Run" – 3:27
  13. "Optigan 1" – 2:34

Personnel[edit]

  • Damon Albarn – vocals, piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar, melodica
  • Graham Coxon – electric and acoustic guitar, vocals, banjo, saxophone, backing vocals
  • Alex James – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Dave Rowntree – drums, percussion
  • The London Community Gospel Choir - vocals on "Tender"
  • Jason Cox - additional drums on "Battle"
  • Produced by William Orbit and Blur, except "Trailerpark" produced by Blur.
  • John Smith, Jason Cox, William Orbit - engineering
  • Gerard Navarro, Arnþór "Addi 800" Örlygsson and Iain Roberton - additional engineering
  • Sean Spuehler, Damian LeGasick - ProTools programming
  • Mastered by Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk, New York.[29]

Production credits[edit]

All tracks produced by William Orbit, except "Trailerpark" produced by Blur and "I Got Law" (demo version) produced by Damon Albarn.

Singles[edit]

  • "Tender" (22 February 1999, UK number 2)
  • "Coffee & TV" (28 June 1999, UK number 11)
  • "No Distance Left to Run" (15 November 1999, UK number 14)

Notes[edit]

"Trailerpark" was originally intended for the South Park album Chef Aid, but was rejected by Rick Rubin.

The Japanese bonus track "I Got Law" (demo version) was developed into the Gorillaz hit single "Tomorrow Comes Today". Albarn has also claimed that he 'might not have created Gorillaz if he hadn't done 13'.

As well as having 13 tracks, Coxon also uses '13th' chords on several of the tracks including "Bugman", "Coffee & TV" & "B.L.U.R.E.M.I."

A working title for the album was, "When You're Walking Backwards From Hell, No One Can See You, Only God". Which, maybe not coincidentally, has 13 words.

"Swamp Song" was originally going to appear on the "Tender" single as a B-side, but was put on the album at the last minute.

Charts and certifications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e No Distance Left To Run. Pulse films. 2010
  2. ^ Harris, John (13 June 2009). "It's been strong medicine the last few weeks". The Guardian: 1. Archived from the original on 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Indie soap opera: Justine Frischmann, Damon Albarn and Brett Anderson". The Guardian. April 2003. 
  4. ^ Smith, Andrew (10 March 2002). "Elastica limits". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ a b Patterson, Sylvia (February 1999). "Which One's Your Favourite?". The Face. 
  6. ^ Maconie, Stuart (August 1999). "The Death of a Party". Select. 
  7. ^ "Gorillaz Interview". Q. 2001. 
  8. ^ Long, April (7 July 1999). "Blur Q & A - The Fannish Inquisition". NME. 
  9. ^ "Damon Albarn". The Telegraph. May 2001. 
  10. ^ a b Sillitoe, Sue (August 1999). "STEPHEN STREET: Producing Blur, Cranberries & Catatonia". Sound on Sound. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  11. ^ Eccleston, Danny (March 1999). "There Was No Other Way...". Q. Archived from the original on 2013-12-13. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Hasted, Nick (July 2009). "From the life of Leisure to inside the Think Tank". Uncut. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Critic Reviews for 13". Metacritic.com. Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  14. ^ 13 (Blur album) at AllMusic
  15. ^ Austin Chronicle review Archived October 11, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Entertainment Weekly review Archived June 23, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ NME review Archived September 27, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ PopMatters review Archived January 23, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Pitchfork review Archived May 2, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Robert Christgau review Archived May 23, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Rolling Stone review
  22. ^ "Blur's award hat-trick". BBC News. 1 February 2000. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  23. ^ NME Awards History Archived May 10, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ The awards Blur have won or got nominated for Archived October 12, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Nationwide Mercury Prize". Nationwide Mercury Prize. Archived from the original on 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  26. ^ "Talvin Singh: Closing the divide". BBC News. 8 September 1999. Archived from the original on 2007-01-27. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  27. ^ Acclaimed Music - Blur Archived 8 August 2012 at WebCite
  28. ^ Acclaimed Music - 13 Archived July 27, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Blur - 13 - liner notes Archived December 16, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "Australian chart positions". australian-charts.com. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  31. ^ "Austrian chart positions". austriancharts.at. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  32. ^ a b c http://swisscharts.com/showitem.asp?interpret=Blur&titel=13&cat=a Archived January 18, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ "Dutch chart positions". dutchcharts.nl. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  34. ^ a b c http://books.google.co.uk/books?lr=&rview=1&id=6QwEAAAAMBAJ&q=blur#v=snippet&q=blur&f=false Archived February 21, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ "French chart positions". lescharts.com. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  36. ^ "German album positions". musicline.de. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  37. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?lr=&rview=1&id=SQ0EAAAAMBAJ&q=blur#v=snippet&q=blur&f=false Archived February 21, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ "ブラーのCDアルバムランキング" [Japanese chart positions]. oricon.co.jp. Oricon Style. Archived from the original on 2014-03-10. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  39. ^ "New Zealand chart positions". charts.org.nz. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  40. ^ "Norwegian chart positions". norwegiancharts.com. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  41. ^ "Swedish chart positions". swedishcharts.com. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  42. ^ "Swiss chart positions". hitparade.ch. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  43. ^ "British chart positions". chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 2012-06-21. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  44. ^ "Blur Album & Song Chart History". billboard.com. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  45. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Blur – 13". Music Canada. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  46. ^ "RIAJ > The Record > May 1999 > Certified Awards (March 1999)". Recording Industry Association of Japan (in Japanese). Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  47. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Blur – 13". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  48. ^ "British album certifications – Blur – 13". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 17 October 2012.  Enter 13 in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  49. ^ "Guitarist Coxon Exiting Blur?". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Performance and Cocktails by Stereophonics
UK number one album
27 March – 16 April 1999
Succeeded by
Gold: Greatest Hits by ABBA