366 Songs 101: All Your Life

If “Beetlebum” hinted at trouble with Justine Frischmann and a break-up with Britpop, its b-side, “All Your Life” cemented both ideas with far less oblique lyrics: “I need someone who loves me/More than you do/Please say that’s not true,” goes the chorus in part, while another part of the song finds Damon Albarn moaning “Oh, England my love/You lost and made me look a fool” (And later, “England my love/You tattooed your past all over me”). After the retreat into analogs, characters and vagueness that Albarn had made over the the last couple of Blur albums, this was surprising stuff, both for its lack of artifice and for its… depressing honesty, perhaps?

Musically, it’s tempting to think of this as the last huzzah for Blur’s Britpop sound; the structure and polish of “All Your Life” owes more to the Modern Life is Rubbish/Parklife/The Great Escape era of the band than what was to follow, which was the given reason for this song not making it onto the Blur album – That always felt like a dodge, though, a way to avoid putting something so naked and vulnerable on something as permanent as an album… It’s a shame, this is probably my favorite Blur b-side, and definitely better than some of the songs that did make it onto the album. There’s something appealing about the tension between the strength and vitality of the music and the beaten-down surrender of the lyrics that I wish the band had found time to explore deeper before 13.

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