Blur, Blur (Special Edition)
Blur had achieved clarity of purpose following their disillusioning Leisure tours, self-identifying as an antidote to American culture. By 1997, they had begun to revisit this stance. Their self-titled fourth album wasn't a refusal of old dogmas, but it did seem less interested in the knowing, self-aware hijinx that defined their reign as "Britpop" icons. "Beetlebum" was a downcast lead single, its choppy guitars and bruised, drug-hangover lyrics suggesting a shift in Blur's sound as well as their perspective. "You're So Great" owed a debt to American indie rock, with its patina of gristly, lo-fi feedback, while the soon to be ubiquitous "Song 2" both lampooned and regaled in the cathartic stomp of American grunge. They still sound like Blur, of course: "M.O.R." was a fine Bowie homage, and they seemed to have regained their sense of whimsy on "Country Sad Ballad Man" and the John Peel favorite "On Your Own." Their lives no longer resembled a non-stop party, and perhaps this was for the best. The deceptively cheery, Parklife-sounding "Look Inside America" re-approached their favorite villain, this time with a bit more humor and maturity — "I'm not trying to make her mine," Albarn sings, almost with a hint of relief.