Blur 21: Everything A Box Set Should Be
  • THURSDAY, AUGUST 02, 2012

  • Posted by: Zoe Marquedant

This summer not only served a performance from Blur for the Olympics, but also marked the release of Blur 21, the band's 21-disc collection following the new singles "Under The Westway" and "The Puritan." It is the most Blur the world has ever had in one sitting. The box set features CD, DVD and vinyl material spanning the band's entire career. Key ingredients include a song by Seymour (Blur's name in early days), a slew of unreleased recordings and a hardback autobiography featuring the band. It is sure to grace the coffee table of every Blur fan, and convert the non-believers.

As a Blur fan I want nothing more than to get my hands on a copy of Blur 21. On paper it seems a dream come true, and I half expect my copy (if I get one) to arrive on a cloud while angels sing in the background. On closer inspection, I wonder how well the Blur box set will actually sell. No doubt their recent rocket back to relevancy with their Olympic shows will renew their fan base, but is that enough? Blur 21 seems to be the kind of thing everyone chips in to get for someone's birthday. It big enough to break the coffee table it will inevitably grace-- it isn't the kind of thing you pick up on your way back from work. Then there's the question of the $155 price tag. If I were to buy each item in Blur 21 individually the price would come out to about the same if not more, so there is value in buying all that music all at once. However for a fan like me, I already own several of the albums and purchasing the box set would mean paying extra for something I already have. Music isn't something people think about paying for anymore. Why buy the cow when the entire thing is streaming online?

I even find myself asking if I want everything Blur 21 has to offer. It would be nice to have all those B-sides and other bits and pieces, but a book? Box sets, when assembled incorrectly, are the over-share of the music industry. I tend to shy away from documentaries and autobiographies, because I like to think that recording involves a certain amount of untold voodoo magic. Having the curtain dropped and finding out the band members aren't best friends and everything isn't puppies and sunshine is sometimes a terrifying and undesirable prospect. I don't want to hear how many times the band almost broke up.

The book does function as a nice way to tie together the box set. It give it another dimension and makes Blur 21 more than just a stack of CDs. Box sets aren't mean to be practical. They're novelties. The average one comes with authentication and a serial number. When you buy one, you're supposed to gingerly lift out every item and pour over the spoils. You will count it amongst your most prized possession and have it buried with you.

And there is value in having all that material in one place. In this day and age, the majority of most people's music libraries are digital. Any member of the digital age probably doesn't even own physical copies of most albums, thanks to the likes of iTunes and Spotify. Apparently, if you want physical media, you have to buy in bulk. In recent years, box sets have become increasingly popular. You can no longer buy CD singles, but you can buy these leviathan box sets that promise every song you could ever want. It is no longer just the rock gods, that have been around for half a century, releasing a greatest hits compilation to mark an anniversary. Bands with only one or two CDs under their belt slap together concert footage with a few digitally remastered tracks, add a fifty dollar price tag and call it a box set. Let's draw the line when necessary.

However, Blur is a well-established band and their box set will include decades worth of work. They've been writing records since before I was born and honestly they've earned it. But most bands have not.

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