Tony C. from PALATINE, IL Reviewed on 11/15/2009...
Eccentricity has rarely sounded so good
Wheelchair Assassin | The Great Concavity | 11/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a genre, Britpop has certainly had its moments, but too many of its more noted practitioners haven't quite been able to emerge from the overwhelming shadow of their Beatles influence (hell, Oasis don't even try). Many of these bands, or at least the ones that tend to hit here in the States, mean well, and they're certainly not without talent, but their music ultimately comes up lacking because the originality just isn't there (I'm looking your way, Coldplay). That's where Blur come in, with a sound and vision all their own. Blur's roots are in the same Beatles-derived template that a million other bands have borrowed from, but instead of appropriating this formula Blur twist it around and expand on it to create a style that's recognizably British but still unmistakably theirs. These guys take thirty years of British rock history and throw it in a blender, but what comes out is their own convention-dodging creation. And they're a lot more fun than Radiohead to boot.The irreverent attitude of original British-invasion bands like The Who, The Beatles, and The Kinks is here in all its glory, but "Modern Life Is Rubbish" is a Britpop album for the mind. The album is filled with odd time signatures, off-center arrangements, and the kind of skewed guitar sound that you won't hear on your local modern-rock station because it's too busy playing the latest terrible Nickelback single. Damon Albarn's voice is usually a bit off-key, but since everything else here is as well, it works perfectly. Blur's quirkiness brings to mind the Flaming Lips more than Oasis, and just like with the Lips, "Modern Life Is Rubbish" isn't just weirdness for its own sake; these guys have a batch of immensely enjoyable songs on their hands. "For Tomorrow" starts out with one of the catchiest hooks you'll ever hear, and then gets even catchier with a "la la la la la, la la la la la la la" chant that'll rattle around in your head for days. The riff-driven "Advert" actually rocks pretty hard, while "Colin Zeal" even introduces a reggae-dub beat that would do the Clash proud. And you've got to respect a band that would follow up the swooning guitars and and biting vocals of the bizarre "Pressure On Julian" with the joyous, transcendent pop of "Star-Shaped." For its part, the lyrically sly, musically stunning "Chemical World" is a classic, pure and simple. Is there a better lyric out there than "The peeping Thomas has a very nice view/ Across the street at the exhibitionist"? I think not.For its second half, "Modern Life Is Rubbish" actually manages to get slightly weirder, showcasing the commitment to diversity that truly separates Blur from the crowd of pretenders. After "Chemical World," the album mixes (relatively) straightforward pop with some more experimental stuff, sometimes within the same song (see "Pop Scene" for an example of what I mean). In a real curveball, "Intermission" starts out as a jazzy piano piece before skidding into a fascinating mess of noise and distortion. The distorted vocals, jumbled drum beat, and snatches of guitar noise that make up "Oily Water" combine to form one of the oddest, coolest rhythms you'll ever hear on a "pop" album. "Miss America" and "Resigned" are the quietest, most minimal songs on here, but their music and lyrics still keep them from resembling anything you'll hear on the radio. To sum up, not only do I consider "Modern Life Is Rubbish" one of the best British albums I've ever heard, but it's quickly become one of my favorite albums of any kind, ever. And given the fact that my CD collection is filled with punk, hardcore, and ultra-extreme metal albums, that's no small achievement. On one final, throwaway note, anyone who likes this album should check out Porcupine Tree's masterful, Britpop-meets-prog-rock-meets-metal album "In Absentia." I think you'll like what you hear."
Blur's first great one
Bryan Wilson | Lexington, MA United States | 02/02/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"the little i've heard from blur's true first album, "leisure", i did not like, and many will agree that "modern life is rubbish", being so markedly different, is their first recording of true significance. maybe that's harsh, but it's also a testament to how good this record is. not as immediately enjoyable as "parklife", and not as complex as "the great escape", their other two "british" releases, "mlir" accomplishes a quasi-perfect balance that mapped out their musical direction for the next 3 years. the songs here all reek of british culture and that's a good thing, because albarn paints wonderful pictures of british life through his characters' words. as many have pointed out, blur was undergoing a sort of image makeover as they'd grown sick of the madchester, shoegazing scene that my bloody valentine and the stone roses had made so popular. this album, in many ways, ushered in the brit-pop sound of the 90s - that's a tremendous feat given blur's insignificance and the fact that critics ignored them at the time. songs like "chemical world", maybe the best here, bring back the meaningful pop hook-chorus days of the 60s, and incorporate the musical weirdnesses of bowie and the kinks. the first 9 tracks on the album are great and never let up, especially "for tommorow" and "star shaped". there's that genuine brit-feel i was talking about. the latter half of the album sags a little, but there are interesting tracks that recapture the spirit of the earlier songs, like "villa rosie" and "popscene". this is certainly an important album for blur fans and those interested in the roots of current brit-pop. casual fans of blur may not be thrilled with the album though, because it is difficult to grasp without giving it ample time to sink in, much like "great escape" and even "13"."
Modern Rock may be Rubbish....but...
wanda102 | Boston, MA USA | 02/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not a new release by any means, but spinning in my head for good reason.
Blur's second album, released in 1993, was a direct invite into the stormy world of Britpop, which was about to explode into mainstream. In the United States, the extension of Britpop leads only to Oasis and very early Radiohead (which is a shaky comparison at best), and often gets bogged into the sugar-pop of the Spice Girls or the alt-grunge of Bush before being recognised as its own separate and definitive category.Blur remain the lone symbols of what was once Britpop, having just released a 7th album to number one sales and singles and receiving a recent vote of album of the year by Q magazine (surprisingly ahead of Radioheads latest). Where Suede have disbanded, reformed, disbanded, and now are allegedly reforming again, Oasis have declined to repetitive schlock, and Radiohead have turned their heads to the left-field, Blur have survived through the gentle art of constant reinvention, while still retaining a core sound.
MLIR Marks Blur first foray into what became "traditional" Brit-Pop. They tore off their 'baggy' style (enforced upon them by the execs at Food Records) and replaced it with a tongue-in-cheek cynicism that was distinctly...well...British.
While fool's gold tracks like "Sunday Sunday" and "Turn it Up" are easily mass-pleasure romps, the rest of the album is a vignette of 1993 from the UK perspective. I say this because a vignette of 1993 from the US perspective would consist of a one word answer that starts with an 'S' and ends with an 'eattle'.
The album opens with "For Tomorrow," one of the "hit singles" frontman Damon Albarn was told to write in order to get his band's follow-up to 1991's Leisure released. This track is one of Blur's attempts at intentionally mainstreaming their sound, with fantastic results. The song is a post-glam David Bowie on a strict diet of 'Hey Jude' (hear the chorus and you'll know what i mean), and is one to remain stuck in one's head for days. Couple this sound with Albarn's clever cockney, and you have Blur's original basic formula.
Other tracks in the "Blursound" that are reserved for mainstream listeners are "Villa Rosie," "Popscene (available on the US edition)," "Coping," and "Chemical World." All these tracks are uniquely satisfying slices of Britpop.
What really makes the album withstand the test of time, however, are the 'non-single' style tracks, namely "Blue Jeans," the hidden tracks (68&69)"When the Cows Come Home" and "Peach", and the lovely "Miss America."
Overall, negating the empty tracks between 15-67, this album is the perfect kind to leave on shuffle indefinitely. It's Blur at their finest, despite the fact that, with every succeeding album, Blur have redefined what 'finest' really means."
Thaddeus Wert | Nashville, TN USA | 11/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own all of Blur's cds, and this is the one I consistently pop in the cd player. Sure, some of their other releases garnered more critical acclaim, but for me this is the most endearingly fun disc of all their efforts. Song after song boasts hooks that embed themselves in your brain. Being an American, I know I don't get the full effect of this very British collection, but I still love Damon Albarn's wry observations on modern life, and Graham Coxon's guitar is brilliant. If you think the Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society" was one of the finest albums ever, then you will love this one."
A Work of Art
Chris | Cornwall, England | 02/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Listening to Modern Life is Rubbish is like looking at an oil painting. It captures perfectly a sense of living in the city - London, specifically - conjuring up all sorts of different atmospheres, from travelling on the Tube to strolling down Portabello Road. The music is wonderful, as finely sculpted as any Baroque chamber work - the strings on For Tomorrow perfectly capture the poignancy and sadness of the song. Blur occcasionally delve into The Clash etc, but the album is far more than simply a pastiche of 70s rock. This album is something deeper than Leisure, that doesn't delve into the cynicism of Parklife and The Great Escape, or the obscurity of Blur and 13. It shows much more humanity and perhaps vulnerability?"