I put this on the other day and thought, once again, how criminally overlooked this was in most “best of 2012” discussions. I know live albums get short shrift in general, but I was surprised in a year when Blur were roundly celebrated, when they released a box set of such staggering magnitude that I still haven’t played the DVDs, that their capstone on the whole shebang wouldn’t have greater importance.
But enough of my whining about fabulously rich blokes not getting a civil nod for a good night’s work. Parklive, the document of their “final” show at Hyde Park the night the London Olympics drew to a close, isn’t just a good Blur record, but a cracking live show. It’s a career retrospective, not just a set of hits; old b-sides, deep album cuts, and a couple of left field studio creations like “Trimm Trabb” and “Caramel” get a rare live workout.
“Caramel” is an odd track for the boys in Blur to dig out. A weird semi-ambient track with a noise blowout ending, it isn’t a guaranteed charmer for a crowd of 80,000. But trimmed of it’s pretensions it becomes an odd little pop song. This live reworking makes the guitar louder and clearer, with wonderfully ringing reverb. The vocals are softly spoken, more murmured melodically that forcibly sung. It ends with a tasteful bit of guitar noise, the frustrations of the original sublimated and distilled. It’s a great performance. It’s still a major bummer about lost love, but time has made the pain less uncomfortable to share. Maybe it takes 13 years and the adoration of tens of thousands of fans to excise the heartbreak.
That said, there is one niggling thing I feel the need to mention. Now, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but this rendition of “Caramel” reminds me of another song, by a band I’ve never seen mentioned in any writing about Blur. This is a song the earnest twelve-year-old I was had great love for, and it still can tug on my heartstrings. But it’s a song no other should ever aspire to emulate in any manner.
On Parklive, “Caramel” sounds like a slightly less tasteful “Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straits.