Awful album, and though “The Universal” is worth all of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by itself, it’s clear that Oasis had the better album of 1995, and this is coming from someone who adores Blur and hates Oasis. “The Universal” is the only reason people haven’t made this out to be Blur’s own Be Here Now, that is, the cocaine-fueled excess of post-successful-album comedown (cover is indicative of how much money they had/have and how much they knew what to do with it), smartly placed halfway through the album so it almost feels worth it to slog all the way there and all the way to the finish. Frankly, the baroque arrangement is better than anything similar from Scott Walker or Pulp, with the horn leading us out of the chorus the first time to the segue before the repetition of the second chorus at the 2:30 mark. And it’s the only Blur song pre-13 where true catharsis is achieved, building up to the climactic 2:48 mark where everyone in the room is singing “JUST LET THEM GO!”, and you can feel all the tension that you’ve and they’ve built up just dissipate, even if its just for a moment.
Again, ditch the rest of this album. “Stereotypes” has some of the worst sounding guitars on an album that cost this much to produce and Damon Albarn’s falsetto in the choruses of “Charmless Man” sound like he’s sticking his slender and bumpy tongue down your ear canal. “Country House” is kind of admirable, because the band throw absolutely everything at it and almost nothing sticks except the vague harmonies and choruses: certainly not the descending riff which is kind of dorky, certainly not the guitar solo which is formless, and certainly not the tantara-filled conclusion because the horns aren’t adding anything. I like “Yuko and Hiro” because it’s an obvious allegory to Damon Albarn’s relationship with Justine Frischmann (making listening to post-breakup 13 all the more hard-hitting), even though there’s nothing sonically worth keeping until the backing vocals come in halfway through. The second best Britpop band in the world only deserves that title because of their non-Britpop stuff.