on January 31, 2005
well. every cliché about blur being britpop to the bone aside: this album is truly a matserpiece, and one of the most underrated pop records of the nineties.
i dont feel like dwelling on the differences between blur, when blur is bloody english, and the blur that toss its guts right at the listener. this is simply something very different from what the band had ever done before, maybe except for tracks like 'sing' and 'essex dogs', though the intensity and the core of 13's tracklist is something quite astonishing.
its impossible for me to pinpoint certain tracks as better than the next one, as i think this is indeed an ALBUM, aching to be listened to as ONE piece. the atmosphere and despair in there is not to be written about, but listened to.
however, if you want to get the big picture before purchasing, you should probably listen to 'bugman', 'caramel' and 'battle', which would confuse the average blurhead a lot. simply go for the whole experience, and you wont regret a damn thing.
on February 25, 2003
It seemed around this time most bands were falling apart in one way or another, and in the process were making some effing brilliant records. Radiohead had their classic OK Computer, REM had their maligned but darkly wonderful Up, Smashing Pumpkins had their surprisingly good Adore. All these albums seemed to benefit enormously from the darkness surrounding them (Thom Yorke's difficulties with rock stardom, REM and Smashing Pumpkins losing their drummer, Billy Corgan losing his mother), and 13 is no exception.
Though the inspiration for this album seems much less tragic (Damon Albarn's breakup with his girlfriend from Elastica), the music conjured up is no less amazing. 13 really was (and is) something new in the world of banal stereotypical music. It turns almost every rock cliche on its head, with "Tender" stretching the tried-and-true gospel choir into an almost eight-minute long epic, "Bugman's" fuzzed-out guitar a straight answer to grunge and shoegazing, "Swamp Song" a brilliant cop-out of 70's rock, Iggy Pop and his ilk.
But the second half of the album is where the band really streches their wings. Britpop is all but left behind on the terrific "Battle," where thundering drums are surrounded by squalls of guitar noise and Albarn's vocals are almost indecipherable. "Mellow Song" is more a reconciliation with their past, with a gentle wistful melody breaking into an almost trip-hop beat and warped guitars at the end. "Trailerpark" is even farther out, almost mantra-esque. "Caramel" is superb, the sound of crawling on one's hands and knees in search of a lost love. The long instrumental breakdown is incredible, with Graham Coxon's axe virtually shedding fire. It all comes to a close with "Trimm Trabb," with its delightful soft-loud dynamics, and "No Distance Left to Run," which lays Albarn's heart bare in the most spellbinding way.
this was my first Blur CD, and so far I think it's their best. Who would've thought that such a band would have grown out of their musical shell so well. Oasis had and will never have anything on them.
on July 10, 2000
In 1998 Damon Albarn split from his girlfriend of 7 years Elastica's Justine Frischmann. As with any great songwriter, he let his songs express how he was feeling and this is the painstaking theme running through Blur's sixth album '13'. This was very much a studio album as Blur locked themselves in studio 13 for six months to produce this, their best album for 5 years. Britain at this time was coming down from the musical high of Brit-pop and artificial boybands were again polluting the charts. This album was needed to show that musical forms can still be moved on and that no-one can master it as well as Blur. Early criticism was inevitable from the cynical British press but for many of its listeners, this album grows and grows on you until you to can feel Damon's pain.
The gospel-filled opener 'Tender' bares Damon's emotions all too clearly, seducing you into their ever-growing wide musical spectrum. Graham Coxon's love of guitar distortion and experimentalism is apparent throughout the album giving it an edge like no other album that decade. 'Coffee and TV' (sung by Coxon), reaffirms your belief that Blur write the best melodic pop/rock songs today. '1992' includes typical Blur chord changes but as ever alters almost unrecognisably to an intriguing psychedilic/grunge format unlike anything else heard before.
'B.L.U.R.E.M.I' is the only song not worthy of being included as it unnecessarily re-introduces the 'Song 2', 'Chinese Burns' elements from their previous album 'Blur', but every song following it is near perfect emotional experimentalism.
'Battle', (with vocal styles reminiscent of underrated Welsh band Super Furry Animals that Damon is known to be a fan of) draws you in encompassing trip-hop, post-punk and grunge over such a sensitive backing that you can not understand how it works so well.
'Mellow Song' begins with Damon moving back to his acoustic roots while allowing his love for the dreamy organ sound not heard since thier debut album 'Leisure'.
'Trailerpark' allows Graham Coxon to show his underappreciated brilliance of lead guitar journeys and the drumming of Dave Rowntree throughout the album should not be underestimated. 'Caramel' is possibly the song of the album balancing mysery, pain, beauty and hurt in equal measures leaving you feel as close to music as is possible.
'Trimm Trabb' changes the mood once again with lyrics expressing how Damon ended up resigned to the fact the his relationship with Justine was over. Coxon excels on guitar once again and perhaps this song best represents the album and the adventurous production of William Orbit.
'No distance left to run' is pure beauty (Justine admitted that she cried through it the first time she heard it). It sees Damon lay all his feelings out on the table one last time.
'Optigan 1' cleverly ends the album and seems to sum up all the emotion that came before it using another of Damon's pet instruments.
In an era when commercialism and conformity is encouraged in music, it is good to know that a band can still surprise and delight. Remember to listen to all of Blur's albums starting with 'leisure' and then you realise how diverse they are.
on May 20, 1999
I love blur, and I loved this album [though sometimes I have no idea why], but you don't need to pay the extra dough for the 'limited edition'. All you get for your extra money is: a poster f/ the cover on one side [grahm's not a bad artist, but do you need more than just the cover sized version?] and a bunch of versions of the #13 which let you see how the 13 is actually a B. Oo. And you get the enhanced extras: a discography you can access at their website and the band's thoughts on the 13 tracks + 3 more questions. Cool, right? But what do they have to say about each one? For example, Bugman. Alex: "This next song is Bugman, and it's heavy." That's it! Don't expect any insight that will change your mind completely about the album--if you like the album, you'll like it still, but these extras won't turn you around. Oh yeah, and you get the box & silly bifold storage sleave. Oo.
So just buy the regular version of "13"; it's a good album, though not for the close minded.
on February 4, 2006
IMO, this is Blur's best. The band was unique in that each subsequent album was not only more "progressive," but also very different. Not many bands pull this off, but Blur did. It seems to me that 13 was the band's peak. The songs range from the choir-laden Tender to the Arabesque, hair-bandish Swamp Song. There's only one song I'm not fond of, Caramel, which just kind of drags on. All the rest are great. My favorites are Tender, Bugman, 1992 (Portishead-ish), Mellow Song (Radiohead-ish), and Trimm Trabb. Man, do I love Trimm Trabb! And I think the album's songs all fit together very nicely, a la Sgt. Peppers and American Idiot, where they all pretty much need to be there for it to make sense. After 13, I think Blur's Think Tank was disjointed and a bit indifferent - a few nice tunes, but no 13. You can hear Gorillaz being born in 13, I think. This is one of favorite albums.
on December 10, 2002
Of their two post-Britpop albums, their self-titled fifth album is looked upon as a near-classic, while this one is seen as a step too far. From this chair, I can't see why. I personally find "Blur" too disjointed with too many weak spots (although I'll qualify that- it is Blur, which of course makes it awesome anyway). This album, however, goes all out with a personal honesty previously unseen in their work. In fact, I think it was this album that really rendered the whole Blur-Oasis pissing contest useless, since Blur was clearly the superior band. I think the problem a lot of people have is that it takes about 15-20 listens to really see beyond the production, but it's a beautiful sight once you do.
"Tender"- One of their most successful singles, and rightfully so. The gospel feel shows how well they can diversify.
"Bugman"- Fuzz-rock that hears them rocking out and lets Graham finally get the recognition as one of the great guitarists of the '90s.
"Coffee and TV"- The easy pop song of the album, but saved by the organ solo at the end.
"Swamp Song"- Stupid, really the only weak spot on the album.
"1992"- The first true breakup song on the album. Graham's freakout guitar solo at the end is classic.
"BLUREMI"- Damon singing through a vocorder about the record industry (odd given the generally good relationship the band and label have). Decent but nothing to write home about.
"Battle"- Space-rock that would not have sounded out of place in the late 1960s or early 1970s, before prog-rock got too weighty for its own good.
"Mellow Song"- Decent, not good or bad.
"Trailerpark"- The song that most sharply divides opinions on this album, sounding closer to Trip-Hop than anything else they've done. I personally love it.
"Caramel"- A song which shows Damon in pure depressed mode, another of his most honest works. Good.
"Trimm Trabb"- They were able to make "That's just the way it is" into a profound statement, and the musicianship is impeccable. Maybe the best on the album.
"No Distance Left To Run"- The single about the breakup. Graham's guitar work, as always, accentuates the sad mood.
"Optigan 1"- A decent, if forgettable instrumental.
While there are undoubtedly highlights with individual songs, this is best listened to when you can absorb the album as a whole, and you will not be disappointed.
on March 17, 1999
After the experimental and moody atmosphere of 'Blur', I was expecting something more upbeat, more vibrant. What I got was a challenging, intriguing album that made me sit back and re-appraise my opinion of Blur. I should know better than to expect the expected from them! From the opening strains of the hauntingly beautiful 'Tender', through to the traditionally circus-like 'Optigan 1', '13' is a feast of ingenuity, a breath of fresh air that may well seperate the true fans from the glory-seekers. 'Coffee + TV' is a delicate offering with Graham on lead vocals, perhaps challenging Damon for the vocal crown of Blur. 'Swamp Song' is a searing, Bowie-esque adventure. 'Trailerpark', notorious for its Southpark connections, is wonderfully dark and different. 'Trimm Trabb' is probably one of the album's most recognisably familiar sounds - simple yet effective, with Blur stamped all over it. 'No Distance Left To Run' is deeply evocative, a tear-jerkingly, achingly heartfelt song that gently persuades even the most hard-hearted individual to concede that yes, Blur are actually quite good. Whilst I have picked out my favourite tracks to mention specially, 'Bugman', '1992', 'B.L.U.R.E.M.I.', 'Battle', 'Mellow Song' and 'Caramel' are equally fresh. Electrical sounds, weird noises and just plain bizarre departures from routine are what mark this album out as being produced by someone other than Stephen Street (William Orbit, in fact). I expected to fall in love with '13' immediately upon hearing it, but it has actually crept up behind me and knocked me senseless with its originality and diversity, leaving me dazedly wondering how on earth Blur are ever going to better this in future.
on February 28, 2000
I've had this CD a while, and though I am a pretty adventurous listener who doesn't need to be spoon-fed ear candy to enjoy the aural experience, "13" is nevertheless just too esoteric and ultimately difficult for me to really embrace. I think of it as an impressive palette of ideas, but with no real sense of focus or continuity. Each bizarre track just runs into the next, with a really cool sound or melodic idea summarily dumped in favor of something that doesn't work too well. Blur is definitely doing what they want, and that's really great, but it's definitely at the expense of melody -- something Blur used to do so well. I'm not advocating a return to Britpop -- they've already exhausted the possibilities there -- I'm just hoping that, in the future, they can reach a happy medium between experimentation and pop songcraft. My favorite tracks are "Bugman," "Coffee & TV," and "Battle"; "Tender" is too long, and "Swamp Song" is excruciating. I still think Blur is one of the most interesting bands in the world, and I expect that they will always do something innovating and challenging, but hopefully not alienating.
on August 22, 2000
This album tastes good, despite all the horrible ingredients (emotion, that is: not the music or lyrics!) it's made of. Don't get me wrong: if you're anything like me, you'll feel like vomiting the first time you listen to this album. Second, third and fourth times too. Music biz experts were up in arms about the loose harshness of the last one; can only picture their reactions to this record. But, lo-and-behold, the aftertaste comes along. It's one that sticks with you, and rewards you - something diametrically opposed to the saccharine pop so popular at the present moment. That is not to say that there are non immediately accessible tracks here - just not many. "Tender" and "Coffee and TV" - the first two singles - are Blur at their best; melodies, and in the former, harmonies of great merit, guaranteed to set you humming. "Tender", especially, is a coup for Blur - pulling off a very long song with gospel accompaniment and still being able to make it sound like Blur; but in a wonderful way which expands their and our horizons. However, the rest of the album is much more challenging. I suspect that William Orbit's production helped to accentuate what seems like grandiose muddle. Buzz-saw guitars on Bowie-esque freakout "Bugman" transposed with tracks like the lugubrious screecher "1992" ! Utter weirdness on "Caramel" and "battle", plonked together with gentleness "Mellow Song" and FUNKY (! ) trip-hop "Trailer Park" ? It's a daunting smorgasboard of sounds, which evolve, upon repeated listens in to a delectable aural journey. This concoction just gets better and better, no matter how emotionally emaciated the people making it apparently are. Once again - this is great music. This album is utterly unlike most things you'll come across on commercial radio. It is a great album in a collective sense: one track sets the tone for the next, and makes a cohesive whole. It stands next to the recent works of Radiohead and Primal Scream in greatness, yet uniquely great. Buy it, vomit (metaphorically), and then relish the aftertaste.
on January 25, 2001
I don't write many reviews, but I feel this album is so good that it deserves to be prased. After studying other peoples reactions and mine to this album, it brings me to a couple conclusions. 1. If you like the previous blur albums, you might think this cd can't be blur, 2. If you never liked blur before, this ablum may be the ice breaker, and 3. This one is most important, this album will grow on you slowly, but it is well worth the wait! This Blur album sounds nothing like any previous works because it was written mostly out of Damon Albarn's sadness and the bands desire to explore new sounds of music. The first time I listened to this CD, I thought "have blur lost their minds? This album is ... " With the exception of the song "Tender" most people will probably not like ANY of the songs on this album the first time they hear them. It wasn't long before tracks like "Coffee and TV" and "Mellow Song" would start to get stuck in my head. The creepy melodies in "Battle" after a few weeks became equally infectious. It wasn't until "Caramel" and "Trimm Trabb" that I realized this ablum is a masterpiece of my time. This CD takes a little patience to like, and everyone I have introduced this album to is addicted to it. Some people may not like the fact that this ablum's content in mostly about a break-up in a long term relationship, however, that pain that Albarn went through is responsible for making one of the most emotional original albums I have ever heard. I doubt they will top this album. But who knows? This is THE band to expect the unexpected from.