Today, Blur frontman Damon Albarn concerns himself with 16th-century alchemists, playing music in the aisles of speeding commuter trains, and how obnoxious those 2012 Olympic bed linen sets and pictogram aprons truly are. We here in the States know what it's like to be the center of Albarn's unwavering attention. During the 1990s, when Blur was at its creative apex, Albarn's lyrics and interviews endorsed an outright rejection of U.S. pop culture while advocating for a particular brand of Britishness.
Albarn loathed the mere idea of America. He loathed the fact that a place like America actually existed. He loathed the reality that America was just too ... American. He trotted out a clever term for what ails our country: bubble culture. "People feeling content," Albarn explained, "in these huge domes that have one temperature and are filled with lobotomized music." (Years later, Blur's "Song 2" would become an anthemic staple in temperature-controlled, domed sports stadiums across the U.S.)
So in honor of today's release of the mammoth, career retrospective Blur 21 -- a box set featuring all seven of the band's studio albums, four discs of rarities, three DVDs of unreleased footage, a collectible seven-inch record, and a book -- we have compiled a list of the songwriter's most acerbic lyrical digs at the U.S.
1. "Magic America," Parklife (1994): "He took a cab to the shopping malls / Bought and ate till he could do neither anymore"
This is Albarn's take on just how empty the U.S. can be, both physically and culturally, as well as our country's many insatiable appetites. Albarn also utilized shopping-mall imagery for the BBC2 program Britpop Now, which aired during the genre's zenith in the summer of 1995. The Blur frontman prattled on about rival Kurt Cobain and how "America had found a voice and face capable of expressing its anxiety and self-loathing: an angelic face amongst the shopping malls," obviously forgetting that he was quite the pretty boy himself.
2. "Dan Abnormal," The Great Escape (1995): "Dan went to his local burger bar / I want McNormal and chips or I'll blow you to bits / Give us it"
Here, Albarn is expressing the role our country plays in the corporate globalization of local food cultures and the trend toward society becoming more consumer-obsessed. Or he could just be articulating how epically McDonald's sucks.
3. "He Thought of Cars," The Great Escape (1995): "America's shot / She's gone and done the lot"
Albarn frequently spoke about the deficiencies of '90s rock music -- the terrifying sanitization of it all, the relative lack of dynamism and anarchistic spirit, the fact that everything had been done already -- and how much of the blame could be laid at the feet of American artists. "If you were in a band that was not Nirvana or a diet Nirvana," he observed, "you were nothing." Albarn had clearly met the enemy, and he was wearing flannel.