Title: Modern Life is Rubbish
Catalogue Number: FOODLP9
Year of Release: 1993
A1 For Tomorrow (4:18)
A2 Advert (3:43)
A3 Colin Zeal (3:14)
A4 Pressure On Julian (3:30)
A5 Star Shaped (3:26)
A6 Blue Jeans (3:53)
A7a Chemical World (4:02)
A7b Intermission (2:27)
B1 Sunday Sunday (2:36)
B2 Oily Water (4:59)
B3 Miss America (5:34)
B4 Villa Rosie (3:54)
B5 Coping (3:23)
B6 Turn It Up (3:21)
B7a Resigned (5:13)
B7b Commercial Break (0:56)
When Modern Life is Rubbish was eventually released in 1993, two years after recording sessions began, the music press had already written Blur off.
They had been lumped in with the 'shoe-gazing' scene, which was over; and their debut album Leisure, although successful, was both pretentious and full of hastily-penned filler material. Follow-up single Popscene mostly confused people (I love it, mind you. My review here). Their live shows had been disastrous, mostly through drink, and they were now up against the hugely-feted Seattle 'grunge' scene and Suede, whose each release the band took to be "an affront to human decency" (see the wiki on this album).
With all that in mind, it's surprising the album did as well as it did, peaking at number 15 in the UK album chart. Lead single For Tomorrow only made it to number 28, Chemical World 27, and Sunday Sunday (worst single, in my opinion, with the worst B-sides, according to the band) 26.
Oily Water, Resigned, and Pressure on Julian are the only tracks left from the early recording sessions for the second album. The remainder of the tracks from these sessions appeared on the B-sides of Popscene, For Tomorrow and Chemical World. (Look out for Bone Bag on the first For Tomorrow CD, by the way.)
Oily Water was included on a Volume compilation in 1991 (see below for more information), and made a big impact on me back then. I played it many, many times over. It had taken the majestic build up from Leisure's Sing, and added layers of noise and melancholy that appealed much to the 14-year-old me. The lyrics capture the dark place the band were in, a heavy-drinking downward spiral, with no way out.
Resigned is also similar in feel to the Leisure-era material, a cross between Bad Day and Slow Down. Pressure on Julian probably stands out the most, and when considered with the singles mentioned, as well as Colin Zeal and Villa Rosie, you can see the project to celebrate Britishness taking shape.
Lots of the other tunes on the album don't fit in with the project, but this is no bad thing, on the whole. As I've mentioned before, I got bored of Blur soon after this record came out, only becoming interested again around the Tender single, and albums Blur and 13. I preferred the simpler numbers to the supposedly-satirical knees-ups. For every This Is A Low there's a Girls'n'Boys to ruin it; for every The Universal a Country House.
On this record though, listening 17 years later, Miss America charms most with its chair-leg percussion and post-pub shuffle. And Blue Jeans, with the yearning line, "I don't really want to change a thing/I want to stay this way forever".
As the film No Distance Left To Run is about to be released, more information will no doubt become available about this record, and many, many more opinions will be generated. I just wanted to get mine in before that happens. I think that of the Life trilogy, it is the best. It might not have the best lyrics, and Damon undoubtedly improved over time, it might not even have the best guitar playing, bass-lines or drums. But neither is it obsessed with its own importance or cleverness in the way the Parklife is on occasion, and The Great Escape is almost to the exclusion of everything else. When they put the British obsession to one side, finally, in 1997 they made the great album they were always going to. They followed it with one of the best break-up albums ever in 1999, showing what a great band they were just as they began to dissolve.
A final word on the quality of the vinyl - poor. But 58 minutes of music pressed on two sides of vinyl is never going to sound great. If it ever gets a vinyl reissue, I hope it's on a double LP, although it seems unlikely given that out of the Best Of, 10th Anniversary and Midlife compilations/reissues, only the first came out on vinyl.
Below is an interview from 1991, published in Volume 2. (Those were the compilations with tropical fish on the front, if you remember them (here's a discogs link in case you don't))