It’s easy to listen to Parklife for the very first time and dismiss it as basic, or not particularly serious. Blur uses standard Britpop instrumentation, and there’s nothing individually that seems spectacular. Lyrically and vocally the songs are jokey and straightforward. And while every song on the record is good, none sound like “greatest song of all time” material.
But the more you listen and get familiar with the album, the more comforting and friendly it feels. It always brings me joy, it’s always a great time and I always appreciate throwing it on, whether to listen to a choice few tracks or the entire record start to finish.
I don’t know if there’s another album that quite feels the same as this one. It’s hyperactive, funny, self deprecating and reflective all at once, without it feeling too scattered or messy. All the songs feel like they fit in and serve a purpose, and the album paints a picture of what I imagine living in 1990s London felt like.
“Girls & Boys” is a playful rock song with an almost sarcastic, springboard sounding bounce to it that’s essentially Britpop’s response to a Madchester dance track. “Parklife” is a loud, anthemic and athletic track that’s followed by a raucous, brief punk track in “Bank Holiday.” “Tracy Jacks,” “Badhead,” “London Loves,” “Message Center”…essentially every song has its own charm, its own character. and its own quotable moments that’ll make you smile.
I do think the front half of the album is quite a bit stronger than the back end, and with three instrumental interludes mixed in bringing the tracklist to 16 songs, Parklife does feel long at times. But the album’s closing track, “This is a Low,” is a phenomenal, more serious and reflective track that kind of perfectly puts a close to the party and is a worthy payoff at the end of the 52 minutes.