R.I.P. Blur & Gorillaz

Remember when the trailer for “No Distance Left to Run” came out? Those slow motion shots of both the band and audience in awe and amazement that they actually made it work again, soundtracked by the orchestral swell of “The Universal”? It was the type of heart-string tugging excitement that could bring a tear to the eye of anyone who had previously been moved by Blur’s music (and possibly those who were learning of them for the first time). Since that initial tour and documentary, the once defunct Britpop giants teased the idea of making a new record, cut the stand-alone single “Fool’s Day” in 2010, and recently recorded a new track called “Under the Westway.”

Those dreams, however, of a second wind for Blur were squashed in an interview with The Guardian, where Damon Albarn not only put to rest the notion of new Blur material (and performances after their scheduled dates this summer) but also for any new Gorillaz records as well.

As far as Blur goes, Albarn states, “I find it very easy to record with Graham. He’s a daily musician. With the other two, it’s harder for them to reconnect. You know what I mean? It’s fine when we play live – it’s really magical still – but actually recording new stuff, and swapping musical influences… it’s quite difficult.”

Alex James and Dave Rowntree  previously stuck by Albarn when Graham Coxon left the band during the “Think Tank” sessions in 2001. The band carried on as a three piece with a pinch hitting guitar player for the road before the group imploded. As far as future live performances with the band, Albarn also says that they will most likely call it quits this year. “I think so, yeah…And I hope that’s the truth: that that’s how we end it. I don’t know…one thing I’ve learned…is that everything I think I’ve got totally sorted out, and I know exactly what’s going to happen – it never works out that way…”

If that wasn’t devastating enough, Albarn went on to describe his falling out with artist Jamie Hewlett, which is essentially the end of his other day job, Gorllaz, as we know it. “Gorillaz was a really wonderful, spontaneous thing,” he says. “It started with two people sitting on a sofa, going, ‘Let’s make a band.'”

But apparently that relationship too has soured. “Jamie [feels it’s done], which is fair enough. I think we were at cross purposes somewhat on that last record, which is a shame. So until a time comes when that knot has been untied…” As Albarn puts it, Hewlett was not very happy about his role being minimized, with Albarn assembling a large band for the group’s “Plastic Beach” tour, which incorporated far fewer of Hewlett’s visuals than “Gorillaz” or “Demon Days.” “The music and the videos weren’t working as well together,” says Albarn, “but I felt we’d made a really good record, and I was into it. So we went and played it.”

This is all hard news to swallow. Considering Albarn’s ability to continue making great music post-Blur, and Graham Coxon’s solo work always sounding like there was an essential piece missing, the reuniting of the two along with their killer rhythm section in Blur made for great daydreams of what a 2010s Blur album could sound like.

In the case of Gorillaz, Albarn has always been the man in charge in terms of music, so he can potentially keep making dark electro pop songs with rappers and guest vocalists all he wants, but there’s something about the name and visual accompaniment of the Gorillaz franchise that will most certainly be missed. Perhaps he can work on something with former rival, Noel Gallagher, who he recently buried the hatchet with. Whatever he wants to do will most likely be well worth our time, but the demise of these two projects is surely a huge blow to music fans everywhere.