Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

A Faraway Blur

Before I flew off to the semitropics last week, I paged through Alex James's Bit of a Blur to find out if I wanted to read it on the plane. As my last post makes clear, I didn't. But I did pack it, and while in Puerto Rico discovered a dandy pool book. Blur bassist James was apparently--I don't even follow this stuff with Americans--the highest-living member of that quintessential Britpop band, and writes well enough not to need as-told-to aid. So he came up with an invaluable first-person account of rock-star celebrity-hood. It's nowhere near as funny or well-turned as Jen Trynin's contemporaneous American account of rock-sparkler shouldabeen-hood, Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be. But Trynin never got within sniffing distance of James's fame or dissolution--the perilous state of grace evoked so neatly in Randy Newman's recent companion piece to "Lonely at the Top," "Easy Street": "Your friends up here must be the elite/You'll like everyone you meet."

Funny thing is, James's vivid account of the elite's brilliant antics, the "luxury" he goes on about, and sex with models (few details here, unfortunately, perhaps because he's a gentleman at heart, perhaps because alcoholics do have trouble with their sexual details) aroused in me not even a tiny smidgen of envy. None. I will die content if I never once meet Damien Hirst. Maybe this is because I long ago acheived the maturity that climaxes James's madcap saga. Or maybe it's because James, talented and mature though he is, is also something of a jerk.

The guy is sharp about music--his book gave me an in on Blur's hits that I'd never managed before. But he's just narrow about the American music Blur competed with, and indeed about America in general. In fact, he's phenomenally parochial. Think that could be why this talented band barely dented the U.S. market? Why this "Sunday Times bestseller" has yet to find a publisher here?

Articles, Jan. 17, 2009


Forget Oasis--Blur Vs. Little Richard: Who Will Prevail? Childish Things