There are many very funny and clever moments in “No Distance Left To Run”, the movie about the Blur reunion concerts of last summer. One is when Damon Albarn is being pestered by a journalist to discuss the “melancholy” in his lyrics. Damon rolls his eyes, his band mates snicker and he drawls: “melancholy and wit” before adding that “it’s English”.
I was lucky enough to be in Hyde Park for the event of the century, for Blur fans. Blur always had the lead in intelligent lyrics, aching harmonies and wry observation of British life. They are London and Essex boys; lead vocalist Damon is from London but grew up in Colchester, where guitarist Graham Coxon is from. They reflected the energy and physicality of the entrepreneurial side of Thatcherite times, while asking questions about the meaning of it all. They were the Goldsmiths College band, where Graham was a student, before they broke into the big time.
A great deal of musing on success goes on and this movie should be mandatory viewing for those musicians on the verge of breaking through to the big time. Blur never postured as bored, cool or detached and that and their songs won them many thoughtful fans. Yet they seem puzzled that they brought in the teenage girls in their droves, despite their carefully-cut floppy fringes, artistic good looks and hummable tunes.
“Girls and Boys” is a hilarious take on package holidays for singles. “Park Life” is about as “music hall” as modern indie hits can get. For me, “Tender” is the best of all and has got me through some hard times, acknowledging bad feelings while seeing light ahead.
Part of the film describes the heady days when they could do no wrong and led the Brit Pop movement. They hate the phrase “Brit Pop” and the film explains the overload of the words in journalists’ questions. Music journalists do not emerge well from this movie as they ask the same questions again and again and again.
Inevitably, success brought costs. Graham admits to alcoholism and muses that he seemed less able to deal with his problems than Damon. Damon almost admits to drug addiction. Bassist Alex James enjoys every part of the ride, except for endless advertisements for the band’s appearances and drummer Dave Rowntree muses on his political aspirations.
It’s a compelling movie for Blur fans and music lovers and goes into great detail – but not too great – on the Blur/Oasis rivalry for supremacy in the charts.
But for this viewer, it brought back a gloriously hot day in Hyde Park with a great bunch of young people (Tom and El and Will and Sam and Richard) singing and dancing and making merry like Christmas. I have rarely had such a perfect day of pure joy. This is a very good and intelligent movie about music. If you were there, this film shows you the view from the stage, which is just as magical.