When I was aged sixteen to seventeen I was eager to find my own sound. I scoured the landscape for any alternative to what I sneered as 'chart' music; anything to grant me relief from the sameness and the shallowness. I wasn't a member of any musical subculture and hadn't friends among such types, so there was no one to point me the way. I searched alone; one of the few offerings I encountered was that of Blur.
Yes, I know that Blur have charted many times, but I didn't catch the irony then!
There was a chip shop in the town which played a rotation of 20 or so music videos over and over again. One of them was Weird Al Yankovic's Amish Paradise, one of the others was Parkilfe. There was an inventiveness, a straightforward eccentricity in the music that caught my notice. I purchased the CD album second-hand from Amazon and ripped it to my iPod. Thus began an obsession that would line my ears for the rest of my adolescent years.
I believe this specific song, the album opener Boys and Girls (listen here), is a satire of the hectic and chaotic state of contemporary relationships and dating. The band Blur came out of the Madchester movement, which made the opening of the 90s sound an the afterparty for the 1980s. So everyone is having a good time on the surface, that is what the music would have you believe. But if one pauses and actively listens to the lyrics a different message is presented.
Streets like a jungle
A jungle is a place of threat, of instant death. The absence of civilisation and rules. The mindset has regressed to being more animalistic than human.
So call the police
Self-restraint is gone, so the need for authority to enforce boundaries grows.
Love in the 90s
On sunny beaches
Take your chances
As mentioned, the music of this decade promises good times on the surface, but the author notes this is vanity. Thus, 'Love' and 'Sunny beaches' are paired with paranoia and chances.
Here paranoia emerges as an inability to trust significant others and truly believe that lasting relationships founded upon genuine intentions are possible. Each encounter only feeds this sensation. The fleeting nature of the personal encounters that are encouraged by this music make lasting damage. Social trust is worn down and the need to 'call the police' grows.
"Take your chances" hearkens to a fairground attendant, inviting the listener into a dazzling world of make-believe where the odds are never in your favour.
Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they're girls, who do girls like they're boys
This cements my point. Hectic scenes and fleeting encounters. The boundaries are very much a blur, the rapid interchanging of the sexes suggests the core of self-identity is lost.
Always should be someone you really love
In the song, we hear this refrain delivered in a hugely snide tone. He is mocking a common saying. If it is just a one-off in some Greek summer venue, is it really love? If you are constantly lying to yourself that such things are 'love' this is what gives you the paranoia mentioned above. It ironically erodes your capacity for real love.
There are more lines to the song, but this is enough said. I needn't labour the point further.
The high BPM makes it well suited for any setting with revelry. But the melody is ostentatious to the point of being mocking, which certainly compliments what I see in the lyrics. Listen carefully to the crashing riffs. There is a dissonance at the end of each one, which lays the song with another layer of irony.
I also know that chief songwriter Damon Albarn was listening heavily to The Kinks, whose music was similarly honest observational songwriting. Certainly, the style is far from the Kinks, but I see the same intentions.
Perhaps what I've noted here is obvious to everyone already and they're all in on the joke. Either way, I am certain I'm not the first to make these connections. But how many times has this played in a club or on the radio, and the meaning lost on everyone?