This Sunday, August 12, the London Olympics come to close. To help celebrate, iconic Britpop act Blur is headlining a massive gig in London's Hyde Park.
We are thrilled to be able to give away the complete catalog of Blur. Why? Because the band's Blur 21 reissue campaign cements its legacy as the greatest rock act of the '90s and one of the best British bands of all time. It's a stunning package—in both sonic breadth and careful curation.
If you didn't agree, well, you wouldn't be here clamoring to win these gorgeous remastered reissues.
All seven studio albums come with a second disc of b-sides, previously hard-to-find tracks and exclusive bonus material. As any fan will tell you, some of Blur's best work is found on the b-sides, tracks such as the melodically knee-weakening "Young & Lovely," which the band has been playing live this month, and other gems like "All We Want," "Bonebag," "Inertia," "All Your Life," etc.
Leisure, Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, The Great Escape, Blur, 13 and Think Tank: The whole lot—which sees the first 5 albums remastered in Abbey Road Studios—has been fully overseen by guitar god Graham Coxon and producer Stephen Street.
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Blur recently played a tiny club gig at the 100 Club in London. See hightlights here:
For full track-listing and a complete list of all bonus material and rarities please visit www.blur.co.uk/blur21.
If you know you've heard of the band Garbage, but can't quite place them, let me refresh your memory...grunge. '90s. A lot of rain. Yeah, that's the band. Garbage reached its zenith of popularity in the late '90s, when their eponymous debut album emerged as an unexpected smash: it charted in nine countries, was certified double platinum in the US, Australia, Canada, the UK and New Zealand, garnered three Grammy nominations, and introduced us to now-classic tracks such as "Stupid Girl" and "Only Happy When It Rains."
Garbage hasn't had quite as much commercial success since that heyday of post-grunge, but after a two-year hiatus and tons of debate concerning the new direction of the band, they are back. And that means a new record, a new tour, and the good-as-ever hard-driving, not-screwing-around alternative rock sounds that made us love them in the first place. Garbage's Not Your Kind of People tour is set to continue to Japan, Australia and Europe—but in the meantime back here in the states, Shirley Manson and the rest of the Garbage crew played a sold-out show at Chicago's Metro venue last night. Check out our photos of the gig.
After the throngs of people slowly filed out of Florence + the Machine’s set, the Google Play stage provided a prime pitstop en route to Jack White. Already pulsing away was the Big Pink, whose crowd was a fraction of the size of Florence’s—but with speakers a thousand times as loud. Like a sonic punch to the eardrum, the British group made their way through tracks like “Rubbernecking” and “Hit the Ground (Superman).” Joined by drummer Victoria Smith, Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell worked a concentrated crowd of devout fans with their mixing boards and guitar. Their electro-rock provided a nice middle ground for both Perry's Stage devotees and, well, everyone else. Oddly, the most entertaining part of the stage dynamic came from a middle-aged woman placed to the side that was translating the entire set into sign language. Who knew drum beats could be translated? The Big Pink certainly covered all of their bases.
"Mr. Sandman" drifted out of the PlayStation stage speakers as the sun slowly and mercifully began to set, it was a subdued set-up to Chairlift. The Brooklyn outfit was one of just two bands (Chicago's own Empires being the other) able to make up Saturday slots canceled due to the storm. Too bad more fans didn't know. Although the couple hundred or so collected were as devoted as they come, I can't help but think there would've been at least triple that, especially considering the massive spilloff following Florence & The Machine's shoulda-been-headlining set on the nearby Bud Light stage. Surely, some of those folks would've found plenty to relish in the whispy, ethereal synth-pop confections of Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly. Oh well.
When I last caught Chairlift at Lollapalooza in 2009 on the Citi stage (RIP), the group, then a trio, suffered a host of technical problems and was obviously still honing its live show. Now a quartet live, the band has since blossomed with Polachek embracing her role as frontwoman. She works the crowd with the enthusiasm of a wedding DJ, entertaining us with pseudo-hippie earth-mother speak. "Most of these songs are love songs," she said at one point, "which is fitting, because this is a lovefest," explaining how she couldn't avoid amorous youngsters making out as she and Wimberly strolled through Grant Park this afternoon. It's surprisingly charming, adding a new-agey angle to their already alluring dream-pop. Or maybe it should be called angel-pop? A halo was bleached into Polachek's flowing brown hair, the heavenly vibe underscored by the entire outfit's all-white attire. Her ebullient falsetto earned that halo, too, as heard on several tunes plucked off this year's Something.
"We've had the craziest time in the last 24 hours," said Polachek, describing the sky as having been a shade of dark green when they were due to play yesterday before thanking the die-hards swarmed up front today. Yes, they played "Bruises," eventually, even quoting Modern English's "I Melt With You" mid-tune, which made it worth having to wait through a set with an occasionally flagging pace despite Polachek's relentless positivity and her occasional ecstatic twirls. "Amanaemonesia" predictably closed out the set, before which Polachedk joked that the song, at least for today, was about "Lolla-Lollapalooza." It was hokey as jokes go, but it didn't matter. We were putty in her holy hands.
We tend to focus on the wacky and the extraordinary—tattoos, monsoons, you get the idea—but sometimes, there's nothing better than a good old-fashioned t-shirt. On Sunday's t-shirt-clad crowd, we saw free love, free hate and a disproportionately large amount of drug references. But I think my personal favorite is the simply stated, "Do epic shit." That seemed to be a running theme throughout this year's Lolla.
Things were certainly a lot more...colorful on Sunday at Lollapalooza. Everyone seemed delighted to be enjoying the sun instead of the apocalyptic storms—particularly the ladies, who dressed in everything from short-shorts to sundresses, making for a far more summery (and less mud-filled!) experience. Check out our photos from the fest.
I've always been amazed at how there are only a finite number of images that can fit on a person's arm (or back...or shoulder) and yet, we still seem to find completely original and completely mind-blowing tattoos every day. This Sunday was no exception—here are some of the best tattoos we came across on Lollapalooza's final day.
The first time I saw Cole at Lolla in 2010, it was an unpolished set on Perry's stage consisting of little more than a newcomer rapper stringing together as many F-bombs as he could muster.
The J. Cole who played before a respectable crowd (smaller than Florence + the Machine, bigger than Macklemore) Sunday, however, had moved beyond mix tapes and oozed with confidence from his long-awaited and wildly popular first release "Cole World: The Sideline Story." Cole has the sweet combination of slick rhymes and smooth vocals that the best hip-hop artists bring to the table.
Sure, there were still plenty of F-bombs, but Cole delivered a complex set with some nice assistance from his ridiculously fierce DJ and soulful keyboardist. He built a steady frenzy, but when he broke out his biggest hit "Work Out" (complete with samples of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up") near the end of the hourlong show, one had to wonder if his next Lolla gig will be a headliner spot.
What Florence and the Machine delivered Sunday night was nothing short of legendary. Led by the charismatic Florence Welch, the British group demonstrated an impeccable technical performance while fostering an amazing audience-performer relationship. The set ultimately drew what’s being cited as the largest crowd that stage has ever seen. This, folks, is what will be played and replayed as big-screen filler for years to come at Lollapalooza. Future festival performers, take note.
Before the set even began, a record-breaking crowd had already formed. Stretching all the way back to the street and expanding onto the Playstation stage, the scene easily trumped the combined audiences for headliners Black Sabbath and Avicii—times five. While the numbers were staggering, it was Welch’s performance that confirmed she was worth the trouble of being overcrowded.
Saturday's apocalypse was officially (tons of) water under the bridge by Sunday, when an estimated 100,000 music fans crammed into Grant Park for the final day of the year's biggest music fest. Natch, the focus was constantly on the dozens of performers Lolla offered, but we think the rest of them deserve a little love as well. Here are some of our favorite shots of the devoted festival-goers.
"This is a good festival. I like this one," Brian Fallon said toward the end of his set. He's one of few people here who's earned the right to speak so flippantly about an opportunity like Lolla. His whole shtick is being a normal Jersey boy, a guy with problems and heartaches just like ours...and yeah, right. He's anything but normal. But just like with the Boss, he convinces us otherwise with every song. These are songs about our aspirations, our losses, and our loves. So why can't we write them, too? Good pop music always creates that feeling, like we could've written it ourselves, and that's also why cynics (speaking) are often so quick to dismiss catchy, listenable tunes like these. "Anyone can do likable shit," we say. But few can carry it from Jersey to Chi Town, and get us all to listen like this, to sing along, unembarrased and unironic, because we suddenly find it necessary.
Fallon gets a surplus of Springsteen comparisons, but they're warranted for multiple reasons. It's not just the Jersey thing. When his band cut out for a stagnated, solemn singalong of the bridge in their "Dear Chicago" cover, you'd have been a fool not to recognize a rock star onstage. During slow jam "Here's Looking at You, Kid," three girls sat up on their boyfriend's shoulders and clapped along, like something out of a Bon Jovi concert circa 1986. Fallon noticed them and smiled their way. He'd made their nights, and he'd done his job. And you thought rock was dead.
Gaslight's set was bookended by two of the most audacious moves I've seen at a rock show. The Jersey boys did a walk-on to Fugazi's original recording of "Waiting Room," a song that about three people within my field of vision seemed to recognize. Right before "I don't want the news," the band blasted into "Great Expectations," and I couldn't even remember to question the walk-on choice. Gaslight closed with hit "Backseats," and during the outro, Fallon sang the opening lines to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Yes, by U2. But Fallon pulled it off. I don't know much about his life via interviews, but like Springsteen, we feel like we're getting Fallon's memoirs with every song. We get his blues, and almost more so, we feed off his joy. This is how good rock n' roll is done.
I've been on the fence about this band for a long time, mostly because I think its records sound too polished. But as the sun set behind the Google Play stage, I found myself singing along with "The '59 Sound," a song I barely knew or loved before today, and I realized something: there are some bands you just can't dislike. The recordings are irrelevant, merely interpretations of songs that live larger than four or five megabytes on your laptop. They hit some sweet spot of power and vulnerability, of melody and presentation, and you just break under the weight of several thousand voices singing around you. Gaslight is one of those bands.
It would be kind to say a modest audience awaited Yuna on the BMI stage, but it hardly phased the Malaysian singer, appearing in her Lollapalooza debut. "Welcome to my magical rainforest" she greeted us, sporting a sea blue headwrap, white blouse and torquoise skinny jeans, after opening her set as her self-titled album does, with the slinky "Lullabies," backed by a dude named Lincoln on MPC, synth and guitar. The 25-year-old singer-guitarist has cited Coldplay among her primary influences, and its easy to to see those crowd-pleasing tendencies in her wide-eyed folk-pop. Good thing she's got the pipes to make up for what could easily be perceived as a lack of depth. Her decaf cafe-pop is as safe as it gets, perfect for any Starbucks (side note: how is there not a Starbucks stage here?). As if to demonstrate, she broke out a uke to introduce "Bad Idea," a breezy kiss-off to a once potential companion. Her light, jazzy Billie Holiday trills and soothing, soulful voicings are easy on the ears, I'll give her that. (Pharrell Williams thinks so, too, having produced her coasting single "Live Your Life.") A bigger audience awaits, but until then file this under light blend.
The Icelandic quotient of my LP collection is often reserved primarily for the shortest, bleakest, dark-lord-take-me-now days of the Chicago winter. Often heavy on the string arrangements and disolate, atmospheric textures, the country has been steadily exporting arresting albums from artists like Ólafur Arnalds and Anna Thorvaldsdottir...and that other group performinging today. Cigar something? Bringing us the cheerier side of North Atlantic patchouli-pop for an early-evening set was Reykjavík's Of Monsters & Men.
EDM has turned into an arms race to see who can have the most imposing onstage set. Daft Punk had its neon pyramid. Skrillex twirls his brolocks inside a Battlestar Gallactica spacecraft. Button pushers overcompensate for a lack of stage presence.
Justice's three-amp-high Marshall stacks would only come up to the nose of Avicii's monolithic human head. But size only matters when it comes to sound.
There was a time when the words "Fiji Mermaid" or "Lobster Boy" painted on the side of a canvas tent would send chills up the vertebrae, and entry would produce gasps and the need for smelling salts. It's a brand of wonderment that's time has come and gone. The often self-embellished narrative of Jack White, and the aesthetic scrupulousness with which he drapes himself, his shows and his albums, stems from this kind of augmented reality. The black and blue palette of his first solo record, Blunderbuss, and the tour's gear and constuming is a study in semiotics. If anything, it draws the listener in deeper, creating a kind of synaesthetic fort, and Sunday's headlining set was just one stop short of the Kentucky Fried Movie Feel-A-Round experience.
Dum Dum Girls entered the shady and secluded Google Play stage as one might expect them to: quietly and passively. The ladies, helmed by Kristin Gundred, have spent years building up their rock star feminine mystique, heavily accredited to severe styling and minimal chatter. Their black-on-black attire and dramatic makeup draws an easy likeness to Robert Palmer’s backing band, not to mention both groups’ signature wooden swaying. But while Gundred has made great strides in combating the paralyzing stage fright she suffered in Dum Dum Girls’ beginnings, a certain level of detachment prevails.
Despite a clear fourth wall dividing performer and audience, the bi-coastal group took care to play songs from throughout their discography, ranging from early demo “Catholicked” to “Bedroom Eyes,” a single off 2011’s Only in Dreams. With their upcoming EP, The End of Daze, due out in September via Subpop, Lollapalooza provided a great opportunity to showcase some of their new material, like the just-released track “Lord Knows.” While Gundred is unarguably a talented singer, it was disappointing to hear her hold back on much of the songs. Ultimately, it seemed to come down to experiencing the Dolly Parton over the Whitney Houston version of “I Will Always Love You”—same song, but a very different vocal performance. But to much praise, it was during the closing song, the epic ballad “Coming Down,” that Dum Dum Girls really rose to the occasion. Gundred finally stopped holding back, unleashing her powerful voice to meet a great live adaptation of the record’s wall of sound instrumentation, ending the set on a polished and well-played note.
I first became aware of Donald Glover in high school, by way of a popular YouTube video called "Bro Rape." As a part of his original sketch troupe Derrick Comedy, Donald played a baseball cap-wearing Jack Johnson fan, caught in the act of attempting to rape a fellow college bro with a big black dildo and an XBox as bait. It was kind of shocking. It was hilarious. But most of all, it somehow felt relevant and perceptive.
Watching it now, the clip seems more tasteless and absurd than ever, but it retains an uncanny comic sensibility. Despite whatever accusations of political incorrectness the video received, or Glover continues to receive for songs like "You See Me (UCLA)," something about the guy just seems to tap into the popular consciousness, not just the niche-y stuff, but the stuff we all find to be funny and true—particularly that embarrassing stuff we prefer to keep to ourselves. Glover is an archetypal class clown in that he knows how to make the whole room laugh, and not just those few who happen to get it.
The same can be said for his music. Certain moments in his set reflected the desperate, ecstatic flow of Pitchfork darling Danny Brown. But unlike Brown, Glover doesn't sound invincible. He almost sounds bad, like a decent karaoke performer. He imitates everyone: Kanye, Drake, J. Cole, all without crossing the threshold into a genuine “rapper voice.” But that's because he's a fan.
When he finally belted out "Yeah, nigga!" a few songs in, the word held more weight to my ears than in any rap song I've heard in years. It felt calculated, delayed to the point where he found it acceptable. Other rappers have been called genius, but few bring the word “smart” to mind quite like Glover, as his thought process is almost visible within his bars.
Despite the crowd being packed all the way to Columbus Street, his set felt the most intimate of the weekend. And despire a fantastic visual show, I never felt the formal divide between audeince and artist enforced by every other act at Lolla: the fourth wall. Glover is a television comedy actor with an improv background. Of course he breaks the fourth wall.