Main courses from a career of appetizers.
Blur – Modern Life is Rubbish (SBK, 1993)
Where they struggled with identity and structure on their debut , here they find themselves reflected in the characters they concoct, and the mundane situations they place them in. There is Colin Zeal a well-dressed “modern retard” who takes pleasure in the corporate world and being punctual, or that sad bloke Julian who can’t take the pressures of professional adulthood. Sure the lyrics aren’t quite as caught up as the hooks, but sometimes hooks alone will suffice – especially when they are this focused and caffeinated. Still, the first great Blur record suffers from the same deadly sin as every other great Blur record – it’s too top heavy. While the first eight tracks remain some of the strongest, brattiest, punchiest tunes the band ever cooked up, with “Advert” being the punchiest of all, the back half becomes comatose after consuming too many TV dinners. A holiday would have suited them well. GRADE: A-
Of course Damon Albarn had “nuthin’ to be scared of,” as he declared in the opening struts of “Ambulance.” With guitarist Graham Coxon calling it quits during the album’s recording sessions, Albarn was liberated from the obligation of making a prototypical Blur record. So he traded his house in the country for a shack in Morocco and got funky with loops and synths on an album I’ve always considered Gorillaz 2.0 sans the hypnotic weirdness. These are dub songs meant for those who feed on apathy and ecstasy. The drug anthems may be the immediate quick fixes thanks to some of the more intricate musicianship found on a Blur record, but it’s Albarn’s ballads which have held up over the previous decade. The anti-war song “Out of Time” features a Moroccan symphony and adds a flavorful perspective to his Cockney point of view, while “Battery in Your Leg,” the only track which features Coxon’s guitar, finds Albarn sadly, yet peacefully, toasting the difficult friendship that helped define him. But the tenderest tribute comes on “Sweet Song,” the album’s centerpiece, where Albarn whispers “Come back again, I just believed in you.” GRADE: A-
Key Tracks: ”Sweet Song” “Battery In Your Leg” “Out of Time”