My plan had originally been much more staid. Both Blur: The Best of and Familiar to Millions are retrospectives, after all, so it seemed that a little history was in order. I mean, here are two bands--Blur and Oasis--who, five years ago, were locked in a heated war of words, fighting for chart territory, art-school wankers against working-class knuckle-draggers. Who sold more? Who cares!
The best thing about 1995 wasn't the quips and verbal volleys Blur and Oasis hurled at each other. It was how fertile the UK scene had become. After years of imploding movements, Britpop fans finally had bands to be passionate about.
And here I was, getting all caught up in it again. But somewhere in the midst of Blur's "Universal" (fourth tune on the album, proving Elvis Costello's theory that when in doubt, you can always go to track four), as I signaled the orchestra with a gesture to the highway, it was clear to me why this was all so important. Rocketing over asphalt, singing every word: "when the days seem to fall through you, just let them go." This is what the music experience was supposed to be! My heart was eased, my brain cleared I had lost myself in sound.
These are essential albums. They are soundtracks you can build your life around. Blur: The Best of compiles 18 tracks from 10 years, voted by fans, spanning "She's So High" to "Beetlebum" to newbie loosegroove "Music Is My Radar." It tracks the development of a quartet becoming increasingly comfortable with each other while maintaining a willingness to change.
Oasis' Familiar to Millions is a double-live record. Again, it covers the band's full gamut, and is predictably sprawling, loud, and splendid. You get "Supersonic," "Don't Look Back in Anger," "Go Let It Out." You even get covers of "Hey Hey My My" and "Helter Skelter." Familiar to Millions is both proof of Oasis' live muscle and their knack for a truly great rock song.
Buy these records. (Rush, too, because the first pressing of the Blur collection has its own amazing live disc.) Take 'em home or put 'em in your car--just find a spot where you can turn off the world, crank up the songs, and remind yourself what we all got into this for in the first place.