As if it weren’t already obvious that Oasis murdered Blur in the ridiculous battle for pop stardom in the U.S., Blur’s fifth and newest record, Blur, closes the case: the album feels like an attempt to escape the largely self-imposed media circus, and it’s for darn sure guaranteed not to sweep America. On previous UK chart toppers like Parklife and The Great Escape, Blur set wry, often cutting observations on Britain’s middle class to snappily arranged, remarkably catchy, Kinks-derived tunes. Singer Damon Albarn claims (in a splashy spread on swinging London in the new Vanity Fair) that “the new album’s more influenced by American slacker bands, like Beck and Pavement.” Uh, sure, mate. But Albarn’s clueless simplification of this country’s factionalized underground doesn’t change the fact that Blur can still deliver massive hooks, even if they are clouded by extraneous guitar gunk. While Blur contains its fair share of directionless crap not far removed from the output of your average derivative Amerindie band, songs like “Beetlebum” (the album’s first single) complement the rougher, guitar-heavy sound with plangent, unforgettable melodies. It’s when Blur tries to get expansive that it gets into trouble. Albarn’s also swapped the distinctly English focus of his lyrics for something more personal, but in either case his words are irrelevant to most of us Yanks. Saturday, 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Blur photo by James Crump/RSP.