Blur – Leisure / Modern Life is Rubbish

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Awful, awful, awful album, and though … ugh, I got nothing on this one that I can make a case for it ahead of Pablo Honey, the obvious comparison point because both albums were mish-mashes of styles by a band with more identity crises then someone with dissociative identity disorder and both sport really awful covers. “She’s So High”‘s hook might sound nice because it’s a major chord that’s been broken down; “Bang” was reportedly in 15 minutes and it sounds like it; the shoegaze-inspired “Sing” was a lowlight on theTrainspotting soundtrack but is a highlight here because it’s at least interesting; other shoegaze-inspired “Birthday” sucks. Download “Creep” for its chugga guitar and proceed straight to The Bends. Oh wait, wrong album, but who cares?

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Awful album, and though “For Tomorrow” is hookier than anything on Suede, it’s clear that Suede had the better album of 1993, and this is coming from someone who adores Blur and only marginally likes Suede. This is just another one of the many overly-praised and quickly-forgotten alternative rock albums you had to deal with in the post-Nevermind wake, and it feels strange that I’m leveraging that catchphrase on a Britpop album but here we are. After touring America in 1992, they quickly retreated back to England and specifically their English records – T. Rex (“He’s a 20th century boy…”), The Who (the The Who Sell Out-like commercials) and the Kinks (a title that reads “Modern Life is Rubbish” and whose cover features one of the last steam-powered trains) – and churned out an English record with English sounds (“Villa Rosie”) and English lyrics (“…makes some tea…”) and mentions of English places (“…Emperor’s Gate…”) and over-exaggerated English accents (“Colin Zeal”) to define the Britpop sound for two years to come. As predicted, it sold admirably in England.

But problem: Blur only had one good musician and Graham Coxon isn’t enough to carry an album for 60 minutes by himself, though he tries, he really does (Damon Albarn isn’t singing enough melodies to be considered yet): without his riffs on “Colin Zeal,” “Pressure on Julian” and “Chemical World,” I doubt anyone would care about any of them. Elsewhere, “Miss America” has some nice guitarwork by Coxon and fingersnaps, but it never ends (and its lyrics aren’t about America that might make it worth it like Parklife‘s “Magic America” or Blur‘s “Look Inside America”), “Villa Rosie” has an annoying cheerleader throughout and Albarn does this staccato but melody-less singing that he does for way too much on the album, including on “Coping,” which sounds exactly like “For Tomorrow.” Just grab the first four songs and “Chemical World” and “Blue Jeans” whose verses are rhythmically clunky but choruses are surprisingly tuneful and an obvious allegory to Damon Albarn’s relationship with Justine Frischmann (making listening to post-breakup 13 all the more hard-hitting) and proceed straight to Parklife. The second best Britpop band in the world only deserves that title because of their non-Britpop stuff.

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