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The Life of Blur
The Life of Blur
by Martin Power
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.95

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars solid workmanlike no-band-involvement biography that gets the job done, 5 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Life of Blur (Hardcover)
Martin Power is a career biography writer and has written several books on rock acts (you can check these out by searching his name on Amazon). Now he has turned his attention to Blur and the result is professional and covers most of the main points of the band's career, with a notable ommission, but lacks new information or any heavyweight analysis or insight.

The book was produced without the involvement of the band or any key associates. The author has only newly interviewed a few people for this book, including Graeme Holdaway and Marijke Bergkamp (Damon's early managers 87-89), Steve Power (produced a few early Blur tracks), Nigel Hildreth (Damon's school music teacher), Diana Gutkind (touring keyboardist in the second half of the 90s), Dave Brolan and Darren Filkins (members of Circus in 88-very early 89 that didn't make the final lineup of Seymour/Blur). Holdaway/Bergkamp and Hildreth have told their stories before (the former pair in a Record Collector article, the latter to Martin Roach for his early Blur biography. Roach also talked to Circus members and covered that period pretty well) and there's nothing particularly new here from them. Given the length of the book ( 354 pages) it's an open question whether most of the other interviewees comments would have even made it in had not Power wanted to include new material he collected himself. The band's current management Eleven are credited and thanked but their contribution is unclear and may have just extended to some basic fact checking on certain issues.

Instead, the key players comment through quotes harvested from a wide array of sources such as magazines and books, quite a bit of research has gone in to this. The core of the book is a solid job. It sets itself the formidable task of covering not only the actvities of Blur 89-2013 (the last chapter ends in March 2013) but also the entire solo careers of the members, these in understandably somewhat less detail. The main facts of the story are largely present and correct, and are accompanied by a sensitive selection of short quotes by the band and others at the time and also sometimes looking back retrospectivelym as well as contemporaneous press reviews and comments (as an aside, it would be nice if the quotes were all referenced precisely but that they're not is probably down the publisher and the format they wanted for the book. In this age of Wikipedia surely even non-academics are getting used to referencing). It's competently written as you would expect from a professional writer. There is some linking of the band's musical developments to precedents and contemporaries. Each album is given a review and these are just fine. They didn't really make me want to rush and listen to the tracks again but they're okay. There is a basic attempt to link to some other cultural forces but and it's quite limited and not an in-depth analysis. In the author's defence, he did have a lot to get through in only 350-odd pages.

Though the book covers most of the facts of the band's career fairly well, it is somewhat weak on the band's career from 2004 to 2008 before the famous reunion of Damon and Graham in October 2008. Though the band weren't doing much in that time period there are still some important stories to tell that have been left out or glossed over without context. Particularly Damon's comments about in 2005 about how they would play basic guitar parts now Graham had left (a comment about them doing a 'punk rock' album is included but without context), the proposed 2005 fanclub EP and announced (and then cancelled at the last minute) fanclub gig in December 2005, the allegations that Graham didn't turn up to sessions though he said he would, the negotiations with the rabbi (again, this is briefly mentioned in about a sentence) and from there to Damon's apparent resolve that there would be no more Blur without Graham, and his concern that it had to be for the right reasons not just when lifestyles started becoming affected by lack of cash (and several further things). Even the reunion lunch, the first time Damon had sat down with Graham since 2002, is said to have been in 2008 when it was 2007. Probably, Power isn't a major fan of the band and without direct contributions from the people involved occasionally there is a blind spot or two; these years of Blur are the most notable case of this. Also on the facts side - I noticed some errors in the Gorillaz section, two chart positions were given incorrectly and an incorrect in-store release date, and I haven't gone over the rest of the book in as much detail. Still, it seems mostly accurate.

A reason to recommend this book is that there are few alternatives for someone wanting a Blur biography. Martin Roach's early effort was good for its time but only covers up to the begining of 1996, and this was the only standout from what were otherwise bog-standard cut-and-paste jobs from the early years. Stuart Maconie's official biography 3682 days is loved by many fans and had full band access / new interviews. Maybe it wasn't all it could have been but in any case it only covers up to the end of 1998 (there are rumours of an updated 2002 edition that covers 99-01). Since 1999 then, there's only really been the David Nolan Damon Albarn biography that used a lot of Roach's work and the rest was an uninspired cut-and-paste job.

So I can see a market for this book, despite the downsides new or casual fans of Blur may want to pick it up. You will definitely learn the main story of the band's career, and it's quite an enjoyable read. Just don't expect wonders.

Black Book: The Live History of blur (2nd Edition)
Black Book: The Live History of blur (2nd Edition)
by Drew Athans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.46

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, informative read for fans of Blur, 31 Dec. 2012
This book is a near-exhaustive review of generally available (and some not-so-generally-available) live recordings of the band Blur. There's also a nice introduction and some brief linking sections giving a brief account of the history of the band. Also included is an extensive gigography and a section detailing how often each Blur song has been played live.

The author Drew Athans is an avid collector of Blur live recordings and has amassed a large collection over many years including some seldom-heard rarities. For each gig there are comments about the band's performance (having heard more Blur live gigs than just about anyone apart from the band, the author can tell when they're on form and when they're not!), the atmosphere and the audience, and the recordings themselves (quality, etc). The reviews are presented in a lively entertaining style and I found myself wanting to read on. Many humorous and remarkable anecdotes are recounted, such as someone throwing their credit cards onstage at Damon who says 'whoever that is, come and get these after, ... that's not normal behaviour', and someone actually owning up to having taken part in wife-swapping when Damon asks the audience if anyone has done it, at another gig. The author is also forthright in his opinions of people talking / screaming / shouting over songs, and about other things he disapproves of such as Phil Daniels' contributions to Parklife! This adds a personal touch and lifts the book above a dry account.

This is the second edition of the book which has been updated with newly-available recordings and of course the recent gigs that have taken place since the first edition. Also newly included is a scene-by-scene summary of the never-released Blur film 'B-Roads'. This is comprehensive and well-written, giving a real insight into this suppressed treasure which the band still want to keep under wraps.

This book will appeal to all Blur fans. It gives you a real insight into their history - sometimes it's easy to forget that for much of their life as a band, they gigged and toured heavily and so inevitably so much of their dramas and development were played out onstage. And thanks to the author's engaging writing as well as his choice of comments and anecdotes, what might seem daunting (reading about gig after gig) turns out to be a true pleasure. Recommended!

Sony PlayStation Vita Memory Card 32GB Model (PlayStation Vita)
Sony PlayStation Vita Memory Card 32GB Model (PlayStation Vita)
Offered by Smithy07
Price: £53.99

29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars works fine, price acceptable for a proprietary card and will fall, consider whether you need 32gb, 16 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Way back when the PS Vita release details were coming out, I was disappointed to hear that the 32Gb card would not be getting an official UK release at launch. In the end I got a 4Gb memory card as part of a package when I bought my PS Vita from Vodafone and that was enough for a while until the official Euro / UK release of the 32Gb memory card.

The card Amazon are selling from this listing is the official European (including UK) release, which has different packaging to e.g. the US release of the card, but inside of course the card is the same and compatible with all Vitas worldwide.

Transferring your data, games and video from one memory card to another (e.g. if you're upgrading to a larger card size like I was) is very little trouble at all using the backup facility in the Vita's Content Manager to copy your data to PC or PS3 via USB. Apparently a very few games or demoes may not backup properly but most will - mine did fine, including all my settings (even my mobile network settings), you can then just pop in the new card and send the backup data to the new card via USB.

People have been complaining about the price of these cards and that's understandable when a 32Gb SDHC card is under £16 on Amazon UK at the time of writing and a 32Gb micro SDHC card is under £18, with faster versions available for not much more. Well Sony have gone with a new proprietary format and so considering the smaller volume of cards produced and manufacturing facilities etc it's understandable these PS Vita cards aren't as cheap yet. Whether they should have gone with the proprietary format is controversial, supposedly it is an attempt to stop piracy such as that which badly affected the PSP. Overall, if you actually buy your games legally either digitally or at retail, this move is welcome as long as it is actually effective at stopping piracy, and some extra money on a card could be seen as an investment in helping to ensure a steady stream of future Vita games, with developers and publishers more confident people won't just pirate the games. Of course, if the Vita is cracked within a year we'll all be wishing they had just gone with micro SDHC... finally it's worth bearing in mind that either way, the price of these cards will fall over time, so if it's too much now, wait a bit.

Also on the price front you should consider whether you really need this much space. What are you going to be doing with your Vita? If you want to forget about (boxed, retail) PS Vita game cards completely and go fully digital in your purchases then this card is a good choice as Vita games can be large - currently as large as 4Gb (the current top review on Amazon USA's site has a list of game sizes in MB), and who knows in future even larger ones may be released. If you only want to store save games then a 4Gb card may be fine. Do you want to store music or video on your Vita, or record music or pictures? I am using mine as a music player on the go and filled up 20Gb with music alone, with some room for download-only games and video.

All in all, nice to see the UK get this at last, shame price is high for now, but for many a card this size will help them get the most out of their Vita.

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