Producer William Orbit admitted this week that working on the new Blur album reduced him to a state of "sheer emotional exhaustion." However, the L.A.-based Brit added that this was mostly "from trying to harness all this talent." Blur, for their part, consider Orbit "very smart, sensitive, a genius" and are delighted with the results.
They're calling said results 13. It's their sixth album and it follows roughly the same template as their fifth, Blur: a blend of rough-textured pop and out-there experiments -- some moody ones, some crazed ones, some loud, impenetrable ones. Seasoned Blur watchers won't be disappointed, though they might raise an eyebrow at the first single, "Tender," which appears on the album as a whopping seven-minute, forty-second opening track featuring the London Community Gospel Choir on the choruses. With its swaying, churchy feel and repetitive structure, they've clearly aimed for a sort of cross between "Hey Jude" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want," encouraging us to: "Come on, come on, get through it," ("Do they mean the song?" grumbled one colleague), after which singer Damon Albarn slips into a chocolatey tenor to declaim, "Love's the greatest thing we have. I'm waiting for that feeling to come."
These are the first songs Albarn has written since the demise of his long-term relationship with Justine Frischmann, frontwoman of Elastica. Albarn declares he's still in recovery from that particular long goodbye (though he has been spied around town with a new love). 13's closer, a country-ish weepie called "No Distance Left To Run," seems the most explicit expression of his emotions over the split. "Hope you're with someone who makes you feel safe in your sleep," he croons, "When you see me please turn your back and walk away, I don't want to see you."
Full track listing is: "Tender" (full version of the single), "Bug Man" (grungy romp in "Song 2" vein), "Coffee and TV" (written and sung by guitarist Graham Coxon), "Swamp Song" (murky rocker), "1992," "B.L.U.R.E.M.I." (electro-metal oddity), "Battle," "Mellow Song" (guess), "Trailer Park" (rousing keyboard clamor), "Caramel, Trimm and Trabb" (edgy cacophony) "No Distance Left To Run" (country discomfort) and "Optigan."